Opportunist thief gives up after viral campaign

Yesterday morning my friends, Joe and Kim (not their real names) whose laptop and external hard disk were stolen last week, announced through Facebook that this property were returned to them a day ago.

CCTV video screen grab of  the man who
walked away with the laptop bag that was
accidentally left at a cafe in Indahpura
Through a series of extraordinary circumstances, heartbreak and sheer determination, the valuable data was retrieved with the help of a network of friends and the power of social media.  It’s a great relieve to learn of the happy ending to a seemingly tragic loss but for many victims, their cases often go unsolved even after making police reports.

In a hurry to leave for their next business appointment, Joe accidentally left the laptop on the floor next to their table in a café at Indahpura, Kulaijaya.  Looking back, they know that it was their carelessness that gave someone the opportunity to take the bag with the laptop and hard disk inside.

Once they realised that the bag was not with them, they returned to that café to retrieve it but the bag was already gone.  The café manager and staff were unaware but when they viewed the video recorded in their Closed Circuit Television (CCTV), they witnessed how the next customers at that same table, took the bag along when they left. 

The visuals showed that the young man was smartly dressed and did not look like the common stereotype of a criminal.  This is very disturbing because it proved how circumstances and opportunity could turn an ordinary person into a criminal.

Good family values have taught us that any property that did not belong to us should not be taken without permission.  And if we happened to discover something that was not ours, in this case – a bag in a café – ideally it should be taken to the proprietor or café manager and opened in the presence of witnesses, searched for a name and number to call and inform the owner that it was found.

In the event that no contact info was in the bag, the finder could exchange contact details with the proprietor or manager to keep themselves updated when the owner of that bag returned to collect it.  When the lost property was reunited with its owner, he would certainly express his gratitude to both parties – the one who found it and the café too.  Through simple acts of kindness and integrity, a negative situation can be turned into a positive one.

Joe’s laptop however, was electronically tracked to an IT service centre in Taman Bukit Indah but even though the proprietor did not have any particulars of the man who sent it to be reformatted, their CCTV recording provided a clear image of him.  This image, when posted on social media with an appeal to return the property to the owner, quickly went viral.

Then Joe received a call to meet a man at an appointment where the property was safely returned to him with a request to remove his image from social media, which Joe did.

The safe return of my friends’ property reminds us that a mere slip of the mind can result in dire consequences.  Through this experience, we learnt that two heads are better than one and it’s a good habit to remind each other about taking all our property whenever we leave any place.

While the majority of people have a sense of integrity and still do unconditional acts of kindness, let’s be aware that there are also opportunists waiting to prey on our carelessness.

A version of this was published in The Malaysian Insider on 17 June 2015

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