“We have recorded 11 robberies that targeted foreign touristsincluding women and childrensince mid-November,” Lao Dong newspaper quoted Lieutenant Colonel Mai Ba of Hoi An police as saying on December 27.

The central town, recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, recorded 20 robberies in 2012, 30 cases in 2013 and at least 37 cases last year. In 2014, police busted 21 cases and tried 11 suspects.

“We have between 50-70 police officers patrolling the streets, but these robbers are fearless,” Ba said.

Tran Dung, deputy chief of the Hoi An police force, said his officers face many difficulties protecting the large number of tourists, given the small size of their force.

Most robbers are drug addicts from nearby localities, he said.

He called the criminals brazen. Many have managed to injure their victims, others have proven willing to crash their motorbikes into the police officers who pursue them.

In a recent case, local teacher Tran Thi Hien sustained a brain injury after two robbers pulled her off her motorbike during a daylight bag snatching.

“Necklaces, cameras and money are the major targets for the robbers,” Dung said. “Some tourists also lose their passports.”

Dung said that foreign victims should contact local police (8 Hoang Dieu, 0510.3911849) to report the crimes so they can obtain the documents they may need to file insurance claims or obtain emergency passports from their consulates.

He said robberies may continue to increase in Hoi An, especially during New Year's Eve and Tet (Vietnam’s Lunar New Year Celebration), which falls on February 19.

“Hoi An police have repeatedly called on tourism agencies, restaurants and hotels to issue relevant warnings to tourists, but they have taken little action.”

Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Sunday quoted Vo Phung, director of the Hoi An tourism center, as saying that the town received more than 10,000 tourist arrivals during the first two days of this year, a "sudden spike" by 80 percent from the same period last year.

Thanh Nien News - January 4, 2015