Chinese New Year is the most wonderful time of the year for Chinese people, a holiday marked by joyful family reunions, feasts and traditional festivities.
But there’s a flip side to the coming holiday season: It’s also the time of the year when people should exercise additional caution.
A coworker of mine provides a typical example why. Recently, she needed to run to the bank and decided to rent a shared bicycle, which required using her smartphone to scan a QR code on it, which of course let any would-be thieves see her high-end phone. Because she felt rushed in a busy area, she didn’t pay much attention in the process. But after arriving at the bank, she suddenly realized that someone had stolen her smartphone — which very likely happened as she was distracted and getting ready to pedal away.
(She even told me, later on, that she should have been more careful, given that Chinese New Year is approaching.)
This kind of thing is more likely to happen in the weeks leading up the holidays, a time when thefts and other related crimes spike (so much so that a Tencent-backed news outlet devoted an entire article in Chinese to exploring why thieves are so rampant during Chinese New Year).
But it’s not just pickpockets you have to worry about.
Over the years, I’ve often heard my Chinese mother-in-law warn me to be more vigilant as Chinese New Year approaches, because it’s a time when more burglaries occur. In her village, people have had everything from valuables to crisp stacks of renminbi bills disappear after break-ins. (That’s why my in-laws always aim to have someone stay at home at all times during the holiday season.)
Why does so more crime take place in the holiday lead-up?
First of all, China experiences a huge migration of people during this time, with a rise in people carrying money and valuable gifts, providing more opportunities for thieves in places like crowded train stations and airports, and packed public transport around town (such as subways and buses).
Because so many people leave their homes and apartments for travel, this also creates more chances for burglars as well.
Add to this the fact that the holidays also come with a lot of pressure. People are expected to bring something home (like money or gifts) and appear successful before friends, family and peers. That includes crooks too, and anyone else less ethically inclined in society. So they have extra motivation to get out there and take advantage of the potential bounty that the Chinese New Year period brings.
Still, it’s good to know that China (a country that’s largely still very safe) isn’t the only place where the holidays demand more awareness when it comes to public safety.
After all, look at this advice from the Los Angeles Police Department ahead of the Christmas holidays, which includes the following words:
The holiday season is always a special time of year. It is also a time when busy people become careless and vulnerable to theft and other holiday crime. We can never be too careful, too prepared or too aware.
Or this information from the University of Alabama – Birmingham before the Christmas holidays:
During the holidays, the potential for thefts and robberies increase. More people are out and about, and they are carrying more money than during other times of the year.
Wherever you happen to be celebrating the holidays, here’s hoping your Chinese New Year is a safe one.
What do you think?
Photo credit: Paul via Flickr.