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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

When persistence pays off: Seeking a stolen iPhone in Qatar

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Though the number of documented crimes in Qatar has sky-rocketed in the past decade, the country still enjoys one of the world’s lowest crime rates – as evidenced by the police’s efforts to get back an iPhone that was recently stolen at IKEA. Here’s Doha News reader René’s story: 

About a month ago, my wife had her iPhone stolen at IKEA. She was dropping off our children at the play area, and our youngest was crying, so she put her phone on the counter, and helped him put on his shoes. By the time this was done, her phone was already gone.

The store’s security were very helpful. They checked the CCTV tapes, and clearly saw a man, with wife and 3 kids, walk up to the counter, and take the phone. After stealing it, he had the audacity to continue shopping, which he stupidly paid for with a credit card. This meant he could be traced through his bank. 

Police report

Next, we had to report it all to the police. Finding the correct police station was a challenge, not made easier by the language barrier between the police and ourselves. I ended up driving around for a day, trying to find the correct one. 

Once I’d found it, the police officer asked me if I wanted to press charges, i.e send the thief to court. Initially I said I would, but after a conversation with my wife, we changed our minds. Although we felt violated (as our phone contained our contacts, family pictures, etc), we didn’t feel it was fair to his kids to have him sent home, and uproot the whole family.

Multiple visits

I thought it would be an open and shut case, since the police had all the evidence they needed. But after a week, I hadn’t heard anything, so I decided to make the drive all the way to the police station, which is near Al Khor. All in all, I made about six round trips to the police station. When I arrived for the fourth time, I was told that the thief – who was a fellow expat – had left the country, but that they had informed his sponsor. They had also clearly instructed the sponsor not to inform the thief about any of this. 

When the thief arrived back in Doha, he was picked up by the police, and, as far as I know, spent the night in jail. I received a phone call from the police, saying that I should come and pick up my wife’s phone. But when I arrived, it wasn’t my wife’s phone he had given them. My wife’s iPhone was 16GB black, and he had given them a 32GB white iPhone. We refused to take it. We didn’t know if this was also a stolen phone, or if it was genuine. So we were told to come back the following day, when the police would have the thief waiting for us. 

But when we arrived at the appointed time, the thief wasn’t there. The police phoned the thief’s wife. She didn’t speak Arabic, and the police officer didn’t speak English well enough to explain, so we were handed the phone to speak to her. We told her, in no uncertain terms, that if he didn’t come to the station ASAP, we would press charges. 

Compensation

When the thief finally arrived, his wife was very apologetic. I think, and hope, that they finally understood the severity of the situation, and what could have happened had we decided to take the matter to court. They asked what we wanted. We said we wanted the money we had paid for the stolen phone. Without hesitation, the thief pulled out a wad of riyals, and started counting. 

On reflection, I realise that I was a victim of my own prejudice. I had assumed that the thief must be a low wage labourer, but in fact, he was an employee of one of Qatar’s major oil and gas companies, and he drove a Land Cruiser. 

I was also impressed that the police here actually used resources to find our phone, something that the police in my home country would definitely not be interested in doing. For me this shows that, even though crime does exist here, it must be on a small scale compared to the countries that I’ve lived in. After all, in the grand scheme of things, this was just lost a phone.”

How have your experiences with the police been? Thoughts on this?

 Credit: Photo by Yutaka Tsutano

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