Kidnapping, looting and robbery have recently spread in Damascus in various forms and methods, in full view of regime forces and the so-called National Defence, following seven years of war. Everything has become permissible to steal, from mobile phones to robbing houses, stores and cars. The stolen goods are disposed of and benefited from through various networks that reach into neighboring countries.
Stolen Phones in Lebanon
The robbing of individuals is the most widespread inside the capital, and mobile phones are what are stolen most often. Usually, smartphones are smuggled to Lebanon, due to the difficulty of breaking the device’s code. It can then be sold there as spare parts at half price. Meanwhile, the devices which have easy to break codes are sold in “ta’afeesh” markets and not in regular stores.
Cars are not spared from the looting and theft. They are taken in broad daylight as well as at night, despite the many security checkpoints inside the city and the ease of tracking any stolen car. There are many stories about thefts that has occurred. Most prominent are those that are carried out by groups of people who set ambushes on side roads and show identification cards for the National Defence and Baath Brigades in order to search cars. If they cannot steal the car then they take what money the person has, while threatening them to arrest them without cause. This sort of incident had occurred regularly in the Rukn al-Din, Qadissiya and Barzeh districts according to witnesses who spoke to Al-Hal.
The sources added that with the spread of corruption and the absence of the rule of law, there are hundreds of conscripts in the regime’s forces that are no longer embarrassed to flee their military service and go back to cities controlled by regime forces to carry out various crimes, including looting, theft and even rape.
Many thefts have also occurred on main roads, in addition to the fact that there are many cars whose owners have fled the country and left their cars outside their homes. Looters have been watching cars that have been parked in one place for a long time, and when they are sure that the owner is no longer in the country they steal it.
Regarding the fate of stolen cars, investigations by regime media sites have revealed that most of the stolen cars are Kias and Hyundais. Gangs will remove and change the license plates and color of the car or disassemble the cars and sell them as spare parts inside Syria, thereby generating huge profits, especially after car exports and spare parts were banned. Alternatively they will smuggle them into Lebanon and sell them there.
Financial transfer offices in Damascus are also sought after by the gangs, especially given that millions of dollars are transferred from Syrians abroad to their families every day. However the theft is not of the offices themselves because they are connected with the regime in one way or another, but of those who receive the money transfers. Individuals who collect money from these offices are followed and then the money is either picked from their pockets of stolen from their cars.
Sources point out that some thieves make contracts with lawyers in order to secure their release if they are arrested, adding that many are arrested on charges of theft but the lawyer they contract can secure their release, given that the laws in this area are weak and stealing from a car is considered a misdemeanour no matter the amount that is stolen — and this encourages theft in this form.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.