QuickPeek: Bus Ride. Robbed. Recovered. Awesome Police. Undercover Sting operation.

Ok, after a few months of incident free travel, I suppose I let my guard down and ended up in a bit of an adventure that I did not plan on. I suppose it was a good wake up call to not be too complacent, especially when everything I own had been carefully handpicked and not easily replaceable. Here goes the blow by blow.

After a nice early morning B’fast, that Kristy and David were sweet enough to make, we walked up to the highway and waited for a bus to show up. The 7:30 bus came by and we hopped in. Though it was nearly full, we managed to get seats and I dumped my bag at the rear end of the bus as I usually do. I was in my backpacking mode and had my pack and handlebar bag.

At some point close to San Jose, the bus stopped for a break and myself and Krista were admiring the views with a cup of coffee when the bus took off with my backpack in tow. So here’s the big lesson to learn, “A bag left alone on a bus without anyone to claim it, will be stolen!”. We were lucky to get a hitch from a friendly guy who took us all the way to the bus station.

As we arrived at the bus station, Krista noticed a couple of girls who had been on the bus, rummaging for something at the street corner. Once I was in the station, I spotted the bus and the driver permitted me to look in. Unfortunately, the bag was gone. The security was not much help and there was no sign of the bag in the bus stand. Krista had gone on around the block and in a few minutes, returned with the bag she had found near where we spotted the girls. The bag was open and pretty much everything was gone. Bummer. I had carried quite a bit of my pricy possessions in there. My computer, iPad, cables and chargers, Spot location beacon, my alternate money stash, bag with clothes, jacket, and my toiletries bag were missing.

It was a big blow as all of my pictures were in the backup drive that was in the computer pouch. On top of it, replacing even part of this setup would be extremely expensive. It was a bummer. After doing some snooping like Holmes and not getting any leads, we decided to make a police report, knowing well that recovery was nearly impossible. At least, the cops might be given an impetus to look up the security footage.

This entire saga tool about 5 hrs and we decided to head to Vendhan’s place and wait for him. When we met up (it was pleasant to see him after a while), I told him of the adventure and he immediately wanted to do something, may be go back to the bus station and look for clues or so.

In the meantime, I figured I might give Apple’s Find my Device tool a try, as both my computer and iPad were enabled to use the service. My computer showed up on the map and I had realtime info on the location of the device. It was in a neighbourhood called Alajuelita and one of Vendhan’s friends, who was a lawyer, told us the neighbourhood was real sketchy and advised us not to head there. He said something like cops would go there only in big groups and in armoured cars. Ahem. I supposed it might be the last I would know about my device. But Krista and Vendhan wouldn’t have it.

We decided the least we could do is to pass this info on to the cops and we headed into town. They took the info in and then asked me to get a printout of the map and return early in the morning. We headed to an Indian diner and there the owner offered us his printer and I managed to get hard copies for the cops.

In the morning, Krista offered to accompany me and we headed back to the police to file the report. We were led to the investigations department and A friendly cop went thro our story and took in the location info. We waited there for nearly an hour when he went around asking his colleagues for some advice and analysing the location of the place etc… After an hour, he asked us to accompany him and his colleague. He wasn’t sure how densely populated the location was and said that we’d have to wait while they investigate.

I didn’t realize until we started that they were taking us on their investigation too! Talk about immediate response!

First stop – Bus station. I was getting fidgety because even though we knew the location of the computer, the cops were starting at the scene of crime. I guess they are the professionals and I just followed them along. After about 45 mins or so, the fellers came back with a picture and a video of a young girl carrying my bag out of the bus station.

Second stop – Alajuelita. The cops programmed the location on their phone and followed the GPS. Along the way, they pointed to some of the sketchy parts of this town and eventually, we left town and climbed a steep hill. After a bit of looping around, we got to a small farming community with houses spread apart So we were able to pretty much pinpoint the house that the computer was in.

The cops asked us to wait in the car and went up to a shop nearby to ask about the girl. After that, every 30 mins or so, one of the cops would come by and inform me of the status, “We think this is the house”, “We are waiting for the mother to show up before searching”, “The girls are 13 and 16”, “We have found some of the things”, etc… Once in a while, they would come up and ask me if the cable or a bag belonged to me.

After about nearly 6 hours, the cops had pretty much recovered most of my stuff. A few knick-knacks, like a multi tool, a bag of clothes, jacket, etc had gone missing. I was happy to have gotten the most important stuff though. As the cops were finishing up their documentation, I spotted the girls coming back home. I felt sorry that the kids had fallen to the temptation of taking other people’s stuff and walked up to them to advice them against stealing in the future. They were shocked to see me and immediately were apologetic. I could only hope that the shock of finding a stranger tracking them down in a day would deter them from stealing in the future again.

Anyhow, we headed back to the Investigations Office in a pretty pleased mood and even the cops were pretty happy that they managed to solve the case in a matter of hours. After a bit of paper work, I was allowed to leave with all my possessions.

There were numerous lessons in there for me and I my unconscious would be processing them as the incident sinks it. The positive outcome, I know is a pretty rare event and I have been extremely lucky. So in the meantime, I just wanted to reflect on the highlights first.

First up, I should really appreciate the professionalism and positive attitude the cops provided me and how thorough their investigation tactics were. I know most people do not have much respect for the police force (or for that matter, any form of public service), but I have to say, till now, every individual cop I have encountered in their line of duty or simply providing help, have been phenomenal in their attitude. May be I am a tourist, but I prefer to think that there are always amazing individuals (most of people are amazing) regardless the reputation the system holds.

Second, I managed to recover pretty much everything within 24 hours of it being lost.

Third, the most important piece of info was the location which “Find my Device” provided. So if you can switch on location tracking on any of your devices, please do so. I have a positive story to back up its utility.

Fourth, I was happy that even though a lot of expensive things were lost, I was not really agitated by it. I felt internally calm and collected and followed the procedure and instincts.

Finally, once again, the cops attitude and service levels were fucking awesome!

Track Notes

Expenses: SG$ 51.91
Comments: I guess in a long journey, some unsavoury incidents are expected to happen. But it is important for oneself to be on guard and avoid such situations. Guess it's a valuable lesson to learn and process as I go ahead.