Violent begal attacks are on the rise again in Jakarta, with several incidents reported in recent weeks around the Kuningan area.
The term refers to a specific kind of violent robbery in which a motorcyclist passenger assaults other motorcycle passengers and drivers, often at high speeds. Typically, attacks occur between midnight and just before dawn when roads are quiet with few people roaming the streets. Begal attacks are mostly confined to Jakarta and Depok.
The phenomenon dominated social media and headlines at its peak in 2015, creating social unrest and a fearful atmosphere across the city which still lingers in some target areas.
Attacks dropped dramatically after police launched a taskforce, but do still occur. Reports of attacks around Jl. Rasuna Said in Kuningan, South Jakarta, are rising, particularly around national holidays when the streets are guaranteed to be empty.
The most recent attack occurred in the early hours of Tuesday, May 2, when two employees of national media company Koran Sindo were attacked leaving the office around 01.30 AM.
The victims, identified as Sunu Hastoro and Adi, frequently leave the office around that time but usually do so in larger groups. Hastoro said that because of the May 1 public holiday it was just the two coworkers when they began their journey home riding the same motorcycle.
While passing the ‘66’ flyover on Rasuna Said, Hastoro spotted a suspicious motorcycle carrying two teenagers behind them. The motorcycle accelerated and grabbed Adi’s sling bag, pulling it by force. The thieves fled immediately from the scene.
“While Adi was defending his bag, the bike lost balance from the force and we ended up overthrown, rolling off on the road for several metres as the bike fell,” Hastoro said.
Hastoro and Adi both suffered serious injuries to their face, hands and legs. Adi also lost two cell-phones, some documents and a bank account book in the bag.
Hastoro said it is not uncommon to find groups of youths hanging around the flyover, but he did not expect to be the victim of crime. But, a staff member at a nearby gas station who assisted Hastoro and Adi at the scene said they are not the first begal victims in Kuningan recently, with around three attacks a week. The attendant added that public holidays seem to be a popular night for the thieves, with those with handbags or sling bags more likely to be targeted.
The attacks serve as a reminder for all Jakartans to remain alert and cautious, particularly late at night, even in business districts like Kuningan.
Image credits: Skanaa