On Theft in Jordan and Police Ineptitude

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Just two weeks ago, I had a brand new Dell laptop computer purchased and brought into Jordan for a friend. A couple days ago, this same friend stopped for a minute at a pet store near the Al Ghad magazine office on Mecca Street in order to purchase a mouse for her brother’s snake (use your imagination). In the two minutes that it took her to purchase the mouse, someone broke her car window and stole the laptop.

When she returned to her car, she noticed the broken window. As she was trying to figure out what to do, a guy who had been sitting on the other side of the street when she entered the pet shop approached her and asked her to move her car, since she had inadvertently parked him in. The guy seemed rather nervous and in a sudden rush, so my friend began to ask him questions. The man claimed to be a watermelon salesman who had been selling watermelons all day, which seemed strange since his booth contained no watermelons and there was not a watermelon in sight. When questioned about whether the man had witnessed the robbery, he claimed that he had been praying. I’m telling you, this guy must be the fastest prayer in Islam, because she claims he wasn’t praying when she entered the pet shop two minutes earlier.

My friend decided that, rather than calling the police, knowing that they would take their sweet time getting to the crime scene, she would request assistance from the local police hut. The watermelon guy tried to convince her to move her car before calling the police, but she stalled, wrote down the guy’s license plate number and then proceeded to the police hut.

The traffic police officer was unable to do anything about the situation and ordered my friend to move her car to let the watermelon guy out. A while later, the detectives arrived on the scene. As the detectives casually took my friend’s statement, they admitted that similar thefts had been happening in the same area.

In the meantime, my friend noticed that there had been a couple guys sitting in the window of the Al Ghad magazine office the whole time, so she began to wonder if they had seen anything. She suggested that the police ask the two guys some questions and follow up on the watermelon guy, who was acting really suspicious.

Yesterday, on a hunch, my friend went back down to the Al Ghad magazine office to ask some questions. She enlisted the help of a nice security guard who showed her security camera footage of the street in front of the office. The footage showed two men, one dressed in black and one dressed in lighter colors, walking together back and forth in front of the office. A minute later, the man in black walked past the camera carrying the laptop and disappeared down the alleyway. My friend, ecstatic with this find, thanked the security guard and informed him that the police would be returning to collect the footage.

Armed with the knowledge that Al Ghad had evidence that could help with the case, my friend returned to the police station with her father and a friend from the Muhaberaat. When she walked into the detective’s office, he was sitting on his butt doing absolutely nothing. In fact, he hadn’t bothered to look into the case at all and was quite surprised when my friend showed up with a superior officer. My friend reported her find to the detective who promised to go with her down to the Al Ghad office the following day to collect the security camera footage.

Meanwhile, the detective decided to use the license plate information to look up information on the watermelon guy. Turns out that he is actually a licensed watermelon salesman and that he does have a booth in this exact area, but the fact that he didn’t have any watermelons for sale that day, didn’t see a thing because he was “praying”, and became extremely nervous when questioned by my friend didn’t seem to be suspicious to the detective. Rather than bring him in for questioning, the all-wise detective decided to not follow that lead.

This morning, my friend returned to Al Ghad with the detective. They were informed that the security guard who had helped her yesterday had been fired (no explanation given) and that the security footage had been erased. The director of security accidently admitted that there had been additional footage of the actual break-in from a second camera, but that the magazine did not want to have to be troubled with any legalities in this incident. He claimed that the footage wasn’t good evidence and that there was no more room on the hard drive, so they decided to delete it. Apparently, tampering with or destroying evidence is not against the law in Jordan. The detective did nothing.

This is where the case stands at this point. There are a couple of points that really bother me. I’m a bit surprised at the impotence of the local authorities in this situation. I’m not at all surprised at the lackadaisical attitude of the detective and his apparent lack of motivation and intuition. If I had to wager a guess, I would assume that the detective probably acquired his position through wasta and not by personal merit, especially when a 21-year-old girl can do a better sleuthing job.

I’m appalled at the actions of Al Ghad magazine. I have no doubt that they fired the poor security guard simply for his willingness to interact with my friend and assist in the situation. I also can’t believe that they would cowardly tuck their heads in the sand simply because they don’t want to be inconvenienced, rather than help another fellow human being and assist the police in making this a safer city. In my estimation, they are just as guilty as the person who stole the computer. I also have a hard time believing that they ran out of hard drive space. Even if it were true, they knew full well that the police were coming to collect the footage so they had a responsibility to make some sort of transferable back-ups before deleting the data. And what kind of sloppy operation deletes security footage a day after it is taken, especially when they know that a crime occurred directly outside their office?

At this point, my friend’s father has graciously allowed the Al Ghad security staff two days to recover the missing footage before marching in with lawyers to take care of the situation. If Al Ghad thought they didn’t want to be inconvenienced, they’re in for a surprise.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

the logic behind your accusation of the watermelon salesmen is absurd. It could have been someone from Al-Ghad who stole the laptop and that's why they erased the footage. Have you thought about that.

Hey Dave, next time, do the preemptive thing. Arrest anyone and everyone before you visit a place so this way if something is stolen, you have your suspects already in jail. It's got to be one the 1000 people around the area. you know what they say, better to catch a 1000 then to let a bad one go.

I am glad you are not a detective in Jordanian law enforcement, not that there is much enforcement or much law to enforce here.


4/24/2007 7:24 PM  
Blogger Dave said...


Perhaps you're right. Perhaps we can't rule out the Al Ghad employees. However I would think that the Director of Security would be in real hot water if he were covering up crimes taking place in his own business.

As for the watermelon guy, I don't see where I'm off base. The guy was acting suspicious, which doesn't mean that he did it, but any detective worth his pension should bring him in for questioning. I'm not talking about beating the guy up. I'm not talking about an arrest. I'm referring to casual questioning of a potential witness. This sort of thing is...er...should be standard in such an investigation.

4/24/2007 8:25 PM  
Blogger Firas said...

Man, I knew it, I knew that Al Ghad would actually do something like that, actually any Jor. would have done the same (they just wanna stay out of it), I don't think the guy got fired, they just told him to scram for few days.
When I was reading that she saw the cc video I was screaming to the screen, don't leave Al Ghad now, call the police,they'll hide it, don't leave....

This happened to us about 15 years ago,my dad had his business briefcase on the back seat, when the cute guys didn't find their 10 million Jds, they took their revenge on the papers (they actually did a good job shredding the papers), surprisingly enough the detectives did some CSI stuff (taking finger prints and stuff).

Golden Rule: Don't leave your wallet,laptop , purse,or anything valuable in your car....

Now for these detectives, I think they thought : Whatever, she is some 21 Western Ammani girl, she'll get another laptop ( I mean when the detective heard she was getting a mouse for her brother's snake from a pet store,this is just a major turn off for them :D, to them she's another snobbish Ammani kid.

Now for your friends, they have a pretty solid case, if the guy was really fired, then he's more glad to speak out (they can get his name easily) the thing is, people in Jordan don't know that it's their right to sue these morons. Good luck to them!

Dena I don't see why you had to go personal, his "accusations" are quite acceptable and objective.

1.If she just "claimed" that the watermelon dude said something,or touched her inappropriately,guilty or not, he would have been in big trouble, this is how it works in Jordan

4/24/2007 11:50 PM  
Anonymous Nizar Selander said...

I think its the low wages fault, if the detectives were paid as they should have in the first place, they would have really put more effort in their work.

It's really nice to read a blog about how conditions are in Jordan from an American dude :D

Just found your blog on Jordanblogs, added to bookmarks.

4/25/2007 12:04 AM  
Anonymous kinzi said...

Dena, I also don't think you needed to write your comment in the manner you did.

Dave, I'm really sorry for your friend, and I was screaming with Firas "Don't leave without the police seeing the tape!" too.

We've had a couple visits with police over an attempted breaking and entering...I wasn't impressed.

4/25/2007 10:14 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home