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Cablegate: Crime Synopsis for Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

R 110908Z DEC 08
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 5214
INFO AMEMBASSY HANOI
AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY

UNCLAS HO CHI MINH CITY 001066


DS/IP/EAP, DS/IP/OPO

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC VM
SUBJECT: CRIME SYNOPSIS FOR HO CHI MINH CITY, VIETNAM

The crime environment in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) remains at a
significant level. Petty crime is prevalent in all areas of Ho
Chi Minh City. The most common modus-operandi is for thieves to
utilize motorbikes in their assaults. Cell phones and purses
are routinely snatched by motorbike bandits without regard to
the individual victims. Case in point, several women with
infants had their purses snatched by motorbike bandits directly
outside one of the primary U.S. diplomatic residential housing
compounds while carrying their infants or pushing a
baby-stroller. Petty thieves do target expats and foreign
tourists simply due to tourist complacency and perceived value
of expat's personal belongings. That said, the Consulate's
Locally Engaged Staff (LES) employees are not immune from these
criminal acts. In the past 3 months, LES staff have reported 5
cell phone thefts and two home robberies. The most recent
Consulate employee theft occurred on 12/6/08. An American
employee had her purse snatched by a motor-bike bandit in
broad-daylight while touring in the popular Cholon area of HCMC.

A developing trend worth reporting is the emergence of organized
gangs of petty criminals. RSO has received several reports over
the past 3 months regarding organized criminal elements that
persuade tourists and expats to go to either Vietnamese
residences or restaurants and then they are eventually robbed.
The first type of activity involves naive tourists being lured
to a local Vietnamese residence for traditional tea or a simple
card-game. Once arriving at the residence, the tourists are
robbed and often beaten if they do not obey the demands of their
captors. RSO received first-hand information from a local
clinic that several Japanese tourists were treated for injuries
received during an assault after being lured to a local
residence for tea. The second type of activity involves
tourists being lured to local restaurants by tour guides.
Yesterday, a major Ho Chi Minh City newspaper published an
article regarding the Vietnamese police arresting members of a
local gang who targeted unsuspecting foreign tourists and
expats. The gang's ring leader allegedly posed as a local tour
guide and lured expats to restaurants. Upon arriving at the
restaurant, the expats were approached by young woman for
conversation and drinks and the restaurant owner would then
inflate the bills. Two expats were charged over $1200 for food,
drinks, and entertainment, and when they could not pay, they
were overpowered by the local Vietnamese gang members, and
forced to go to ATM and withdraw money to cover the inflated
bills. Police investigated the scam over a two week period, and
then arrested the restaurant owner, ringleader and gang members.
The ring leader has confessed to 23 separate incidents.

RSO will continue a stringent briefing program and report all
incidents to the local authorities. Furthermore, though home
burglaries have not occurred recently in Post provided
residences, RSO continues to evaluate the residential security
requirements due to home burglaries in the immediate vicinity of
Post-provided housing compounds.

FAIRFAX

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