A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
We’ve heard a lot of fantastic experiences from international students studying in the Netherlands – one of the countries most people consider as safe. However, this does not hinder even the smallest chance of experiencing the unwanted to occur. I was unfortunate enough to actually experience it, but hopefully this can be a learning experience for us all.
It was around 6 in the evening. I was walking down the street in the crowded city of Amsterdam after a long day at the office I’m currently doing my internship at. Feeling like I deserve some treats after all the hard work, I went to some stores and lastly McDonald’s. “Medium French Fries for takeaway, alstublieft!” Holding a Primark bag on my left hand while eating my french fries, I headed towards Amsterdam Centraal with my phone inside my coat pocket and music played through my earphone.
I almost got inside the station when suddenly the music from my phone stopped and I heard a “click” sound – my earphone was plugged off. For two seconds I could not digest what just happened, all I knew was my earphone was just hanging and I couldn’t find my phone inside my pocket anymore. Realizing what just happened, I looked around hoping to see someone looking suspicious – no one. It was so smooth and quick, I didn’t even feel a hand taking my phone from inside my pocket. I ran around didn’t know what I looked for anymore and was being super confused. I finally went inside the station to look for the police. I bumped into a policeman who looked like he was about to end his shift. He walked me to the police station on the second floor and I reported my stolen phone.
Some polices gathered around and discussed about my case while I was being interviewed by one of them. After waiting for several minutes that felt like ages, a police told me that they saw me walking through the camera surveillance, but unfortunately the incident happened at the blind spot – meaning that the camera couldn’t quite capture it. Knowing I wouldn’t get my phone back at least on the same day, they told me to file a report. While filling in some forms, I saw a guy some polices brought inside while being scolded. Apparently he was a pickpocket among many others who was caught by the police stealing a seemingly expensive watch. The police told me that the day before, there were around 4-5 reports of stolen phones near Amsterdam Centraal and many other things. If lucky enough, polices can find the pickpockets selling the stolen phones around that area.
Later, the police asked me to give detailed descriptions about my phone and its unique code, saying that they would inform me if someone brought my phone to the police (which was highly unlikely I believe). You may wonder whether I’ve used the device tracker apps, I did – the ones for Android, and I still couldn’t track it as my phone seemed to be kept offline until now.
So I went home to Leiden, still couldn’t believe what happened. I’m usually careful enough that I always have both of my hands inside my pockets. It was just one time I was hungry and did not anticipate the unwanted experience, yet it happened exactly at that time.
Now that I’ve learned my lesson, I hope we can prevent similar experiences from happening to any of us. Although one can say that Amsterdam is a touristy place and that what makes it unsafe, the truth is, pickpockets are everywhere – even in Leiden. As cliché as it may sound, always keep your eyes on your stuffs especially in public places such as stations, supermarkets, and public transports. It’s not that the polices cannot be relied on, but we are the ones who know the values of our own goods. Never underestimate pickpockets and their seemingly supernatural thievery abilities.