Photo of USTDC courtesy of Les Duffin

Monday, August 6, 2007

Crime in Taipei

Even after all these years, I'm still struck by the fact that Taipei was relatively crime-free. I don't recall ever being concerned about getting attacked or robbed while I was there back in 1973-1974. If such things ever happened, I never heard about them. I felt perfectly safe walking along the street in downtown Taipei at any hour of the day or night. Apparently, it's still like that today, according to the US State Department.

That's not to say there was no crime. Home burglaries, for example, were always a possibility. I hired a houseboy at the hostel, mostly to keep an eye on things. He definitely earned my trust the time I inadvertently left a fair amount of cash on the table in my room one morning. Not only was it still there when I returned home that night, but he had neatly sorted and stacked it for me.

During my tour I "house sat" a few times for some of the Navy officers at TDC who wandered off to Hong Kong or somewhere on vacation. I think they had full-time neighborhood security guys who roamed up and down the block from time to time. Even so, they felt a little more secure having someone in the house every night as well. It gave me a change of scenery for a few days and usually resulted in a good meal at a nice restaurant when they returned -- a definite win-win situation.

I'm now retired and live close to a major university in the Midwest. We don't have a horrific crime rate here, but I wouldn't even consider going for a walk downtown at three o'clock in the morning. In Taipei, a city of close to two million people at the time, I wouldn't have hesitated.


Anonymous said...

In 1966, my buddy and I were both residing in the Chinese Hostel located next to the Navy Exchange on Chung Shan Bei Lu. The flight path leading to touchdown at Sungshan airport passed directly over the Hostel. On three occasions, I woke up out of my bed. Once standing in the rubbish can next to the door of my room, the other 2 times, frightened and standing up next to my bed. Most of the jet aircraft in 1966 were Boeing 707s. Most aircraft would glide across Tien Mu on their approach to the airport runway.
Often they found it necessary to kick in their 4 engines to gain altitude or speed before touching down on the runway and if the humidity and temperature was just right, the engine sound would shake the building and the noise would be overwhelming. It was terrible. You either got used to the noise, put up with it or move, we moved. We rented a brand new 3rd floor apartment, a block and a half outside the back gate to HSA East Compound. The apartment had windows in every room, something that was unheard of in 1966. We lived in the apartment for a few weeks before experiencing a break-in. The thief jumped up on our balcony, broke open the door lock and came right in. My friend’s bedroom was wide open, he never locked his door. Unfortunately, that was a big mistake. The thief took everything in his room, except the bed. We had build-in cabinets and a desk. My poor friend lost all of his clothing including uniforms, shoes, everything. He was in shock. The thief tried to open my locked door, but, the door was made of hardwood, and he attempted to saw out the door lock with what appeared to be knife marks on the door. I only lost a small alarm clock that I kept in the living room. We of course made official reports with the Navy Shore Patrol, my friend moved back to the barracks at Taipei Air Station. I and my girl friend remained in the apartment. A couple of weeks later, early on a Saturday morning, a pair of Taiwan Police Officers arrived at our door with a man in hand. They had him tied up with rope and we taking him around the area so he could show the police the residences he had visited. The police told my girl friend that the thief had also identified a store where he sold the stolen items, and many of the items could possibly still be there if we went out to identify them. I called my friend, gave him the information and he later told me he was able to purchase back a few of his stolen items. Of course the Air Force reimbursed him and also paid for the items he was unable to recover. That was my one and only crime adventure in Taiwan, other than an automobile accident one damp night while driving a couple of Air Force Inspectors up to Beitou.

Don said...

Thanks much for the input!

Yes, there was plenty of property crime in those days. A friend of mine who lived in a single family house paid a neighborhood security guard to patrol the area and keep an eye on things. I don't think that was an uncommon practice at the time. As far as I know, my friend never lost a single item.