Galih Gumelar, Jakarta – As most Jakartans are staying at home during the COVID-19 epidemic, minimarkets have become new targets of crime, the Jakarta Police have said.
Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Yusri Yunus said the number of crimes occurring in minimarkets in Jakarta had increased since the city administration imposed large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) on April 10, with the offenses ranging from petty crimes like shoplifting to burglary and robbery.
"The number of crimes at minimarkets in Jakarta was low from January to March but cases have been more prevalent since the beginning of April," Yusri said on Wednesday.
Most of the crimes occurred at night, with the offenders taking advantage of quieter streets in the capital, he said. Many of the minimarket robberies were done in groups, with each member playing a specific role.
In the wee hours of April 16, police thwarted a burglary attempt by a group of four men at a closed minimarket in Duren Sawit, East Jakarta, during their regular patrol.
Three of the alleged burglars were arrested while one – the driver in their operation – managed to flee the scene with all the stolen goods. One of the nabbed individuals was immobilized by an officer after he threatened the police with a machete.
The criminal group reportedly robbed five minimarkets in East Jakarta over the past month, especially in the districts of Duren Sawit and Jatinegara.
In a different case that occurred in broad daylight on April 20, police arrested two men for stealing nine cans of baby formula from a minimarket in Cibubur, East Jakarta.
They were stopped by a cashier who told them to pay for the items, but they refused and fled the scene with a car.
Local residents chased the two perpetrators, when patrolling police officers saw the incident and eventually arrested them.
Police found an airsoft gun inside the car but said the two men had not used it to intimidate the cashier in the incident.
"The police have been on alert about possible minimarket robberies since the PSBB was started. It, along with vehicle theft, mugging and internet hoaxes, is among four crimes likely to occur during the pandemic," Yusri said.
He refused to disclose the total number of such convenience store crimes in Jakarta in the past two weeks.
But recent National Police data show that the number of crimes nationwide rose to 3,827 cases between April 6 to 12, from 3,423 cases in the previous week, marking an increase of around 11.8 percent, with robberies and theft being the most common offenses.
To prevent convenience store crimes, Yusri said police had identified a number of hot spots in Jakarta and had analyzed the patterns of previous crimes to allow patrolling officers to identify potential offenses easier.
"We will also deploy more officers at night to patrol locations where such crimes are most likely to happen. We also ask people to immediately inform us whenever they see suspicious events in minimarkets or other places," Yusri said.
University of Indonesia (UI) criminologist Iqrak Sulhin suspected that crimes targeting minimarkets happened largely because of financial stress due to the ongoing outbreak.
Many people were unable to make ends meet as businesses encountered a major downturn during the PSBB. Some people could cope with such financial stress, but others might have found themselves in desperation, he said.
"Frustration caused by the harsh economic condition might be the main reason why such crimes occurred during the past few weeks," Iqrak said. "But I think such crimes were also committed by long-time criminals."
A case in point was police finding on Thursday that a group of five men had committed a number of burglaries at convenience stores in Jakarta and Banten's Tangerang since December. Four of them were arrested recently, while the leader of the group was shot dead in a raid. Police confiscated a crowbar, 40 packs of cigarettes, two boxes of coffee, 26 cans of milk powder and 80 packs of fabric softener.
As convenience store crimes have become more prevalent, Alfamart and Indomaret – two major minimarket chains in Jakarta – promised to improve security of their stores.
Alfamart corporate communication general manager Nur Rochman said the retailer would check the quality of CCTV cameras installed at all Alfamart stores across Jakarta and would replace them immediately if they were not functioning well. The management said it had also asked police to tighten patrols around all Alfamart stores in the capital.
Indomaret marketing director Wiwiek Yusuf said the management was trying to reach out to the police to improve surveillance on Indomaret stores in Jakarta.
"I heard that the police will perform more daily patrols; we depend on them to maintain security [around] our stores in Jakarta," Wiwiek said.