I Got Robbed in Wuhan!

In China it is easy to become complacent, to assume that you are 100% safe and no crime can touch you. In daily life I have never felt threatened here, have never experienced a mugging or a fight, and to be honest I feel safer walking through the streets alone at night here than I do in my home city of Manchester. This is why, when I arrived home from an evening event, I was so shocked to find that someone had broken into my apartment and taken my laptop and a large amount of cash my boyfriend had saved.

Remember You’re Not The Only One Who Might Have Keys…

The lock was fine and the door had not been tampered with, and since the apartment is on the 25th floor it’s unlikely that someone climbed in through the balcony door (which though closed was not locked). Since the door locks shut as soon as it is closed, and I remember double-locking it when I left, I think the only way someone could’ve got in without causing any damage was to have a key. One important tip that I wish I had listened to is to have the locks changed on a new apartment when you move in. Otherwise, as my Chinese friends have pointed out, a previous owner or someone they gave a spare key to may return and see what they can take.

Consider Hiding Your Valuables…

In my case, the thief grabbed my laptop (which was out on the bed-side table and easily visible) and the cash from the draw underneath. They also quickly looked in the cupboard and took some 1 yuan notes in a small purse but clearly did not notice or find the time to look through my jewellery, which is much more valuable. Since thieves are in a rush and grab not necessarily the most valuable but the most visible items, a good defence for your own property is to hide away anything expensive before you go out – hide your laptop under a pile of clothes, or keep cash tucked away in books. Since the incident I have been doing this regularly just in case!

Watch Out For Spiderman…

Another thing to watch out for is your balcony doors if you live close to the ground floor. A friend of mine had his 3rd floor apartment broken into after leaving the balcony doors open, so even if you think it’s safe to leave doors/windows open because you’re a few floors up think again! Criminals are cunning and I’m sure there are many who can climb a few balcony levels to find rich pickings. So whatever floor you live on just double-check your balcony doors and any large windows are locked before you leave.

Check CCTV and Track Your Devices…

Though it is quite rare in Wuhan, remember that a break-in or robbery can happen to anyone so it’s best to be vigilant. Check out where the security cameras are around your building and community, and wake up that sleeping security guard as you go past the gate (you know what I’m talking about, no matter where you live in the city!). You can also put a “find my device” program on most laptops and phones, so in case it’s taken you may be able to locate it. If you do experience a robbery there a few different ways you can tackle the situation, even if the police don’t manage to catch the perpetrator.

How to Handle a Break-in in China…

First off, report the incident to the police – if you don’t speak much Chinese ask a Chinese friend or colleague to translate for you. Secondly, ask to view security tapes from your community and see if you can find a camera with an angle pointing towards your door or an elevator camera which will record who came and went from your floor. If the police and CCTV don’t turn up anything conclusive, your third option is to ask your neighbours or friends in the community if they witnessed anything suspicious. Also, if you’re a university to student you can speak to the campus security to see if they have seen or heard anything.
So take these simple steps to protect your valuables and space, and if you’re really worried about this issue consider getting some comprehensive travel insurance (some companies/policies will cover your home contents if you’re abroad for a year). Thanks for reading, and stay safe out there!