Picture the scene: you are out with friends and then you reach into your pocket or your bag, grasping hopelessly for a phone or wallet. The moment of panic hits – where is it? You are 100% certain that it has disappeared forever without a clue left behind. Your heart is thumping in your chest and your friends try to console you that it is within the depths of your bag. Suddenly, you reach into a corner that you could have sworn you had already searched and your hand closes around the exact object you firmly believed would never be seen again. Or you log onto Facebook and see a status appear on your newsfeed, declaring solemnly, “Hey everyone, phone’s gone. If you need me, contact me on this.” Whether the phone was lost on a night out or stolen on the streets, there seems to be no chance of retrieval. You wince and offer a sympathetic comment while thanking your lucky stars it wasn’t you. Or what about the situation where you return to your bike that you locked up only hours before and it’s nowhere to be found? You can almost see someone cycling around the city on your mode of transportation but before you explode with fury, you look again and it’s four spots down from where you left it in a haze as you rushed to meet your 9am.
Incident in Insomnia
If any of these situations sound freakishly familiar, it’s because they occur daily. It is widely accepted that students are being targeted. Just last week, I found myself in Insomnia sipping hot chocolate with two pals. We noticed a suspicious small figure enter the café. This man did not purchase anything, instead lurking around the café undetected by staff members. As I stood up to leave, my handbag tucked into the crook of my elbow, he followed close behind. As we turned right to return to the Arts Block, a gust of panic blew through me. I could not detect the presence of my wallet. I told my friends of my concern but they told me to search in the bright lights of the Arts Block. However, before I could do this, a fellow patron from Insomnia chased behind us and informed me that my suspicions were confirmed – the short man had nonchalantly reached into my bag and swiped my wallet from under my nose. We chased up Nassau Street. My eagle eyed friend spotted the thief attempting to enter McGuires and much to my surprise (and to that of my friends), I confronted this man as he was being escorted out of the shop. This is not advised or recommended but there I was, exclaiming, “excuse me, did you just steal my wallet?” Now, the outcome of this encounter was obvious. He did not admit it nor hand me back my wallet (which contained all of two euro) and apologise for the confusion. I had no choice but to let him go forth, watching as he clutched a handful of change (presumably mine) but not before he raised his middle finger. However, this is not where the saga ended.
The situation that I found myself in reveals that we are never truly safe from theft. We could be sitting in a café, catching up with friends or wandering the streets, admiring the Christmas lights, not aware that we are being watched. Once a friend of mine left a pair of boots she had purchased down as she perused another display. When she reached down to pick up her bag mere seconds later, it was gone. Because we are aware of this fact, we must take measures to protect ourselves from being targets. According to a report from the Central Statistics Office, theft rose by 1.3% in the period from March 2014 to 2015. Over 77,700 different cases of theft were recorded last year in Ireland.
Most of us fear the theft of our smartphones. Our parents may chide us for our constant absentminded screen tapping but the angst is not unfounded – a mobile phone is stolen every 20 minutes in Ireland with street robberies becoming ever more common. A survey by ESET Ireland in February revealed 9.7% of those surveyed users had their phone lost or stolen in the last 12 months. A leaflet published by the Gardai reveals some tips for smartphone users that offer some assistance in dealing with the tirade of theft in Dublin city. They recommend keeping your phone out of public view. The amount of people that regularly walk into others because they can’t miss the group chat banter while roaming the streets proves that this often isn’t possible. However, if it is necessary to text or call, the Gardai recommend remaining vigilant. Attacks of the phone being grabbed from the hands of its owners are becoming more and more common. Another measure that many of us don’t think of is the IMEI code. It can be accessed by typing *#06# on the phone keypad. By providing this detail, as well as your SIM card information to your mobile provider, your mobile provider will disable usage of the phone hence protecting private information. Programs like Find My iPhone also aid the process. Backing up photographs and contacts will also lessen the blow of the loss of a beloved companion, the humble smartphone.
Bicycle theft is also a problem that many students today have to face. 4,950 bikes were reported stolen in Dublin in 2014. That is more than 13 per day. It shows a jump of 162% since 2008, when 1,873 bikes were reported stolen in the capital. A survey of 1,500 people from dublincycling.ie indicates that one in six of us have given up our city cycling dreams due to fear of a stolen bicycle, while an article in Trinity News last year revealed a student’s own experience with the devastating loss. A further survey by the Dublin Cycling Campaign revealed that our very own campus is the worst place to park a bicycle outdoors in the city. Cyclists are advised to double lock their bikes. These locks should always be U Locks with a Sold Secure marking. Taking a photograph of the bicycle’s serial number is also recommended.
My brush with petty theft did not end after I trudged away from my nemesis or after I cancelled my debit card. Instead, I received an email from the Accommodation Office of where I reside. My wallet (including my apartment key card) had been found! In a Burger King bin! This resulted in an unsightly dampness. However, all my cards were there, including my debit card, and thank goodness, my many assorted society cards with all their helpful discounts. My tale had a happy ending. However, it would have been much better if it hadn’t developed into a tale at all. Constant vigilance is necessary no matter where you happen to find yourself. It is also worth adopting more safety measures in our daily lives to protect our most valued of possessions and guarantee that you too won’t have to chase someone down the streets of Dublin in a valiant quest to regain your honour.