Recently a colleague from work, a 20-year-old well-built guy, was mugged at midnight near Gallerie Khabbaz in Jdeideh.

Here's his version of the story: "It was late at night, and I was headed home after having driven my girlfriend to her place. I stopped at a red light, and a guy jumps out of nowhere, opens up my door and threatens me with a half-opened box cutter, screaming that he wanted $200. The car behind me was lightly pushing up against the bumper, which pushed my vehicle into a black Jeep in front of me. It was clear [to me] this was some sort of regular robbery setup. I panicked, but decided to grab the assailants hand, which was clutching the box cutter. That's when he reached in the car, grabbed my mobile phone and fled. Of course, I wanted to simply drive off after this happened, but the black Jeep was deliberately blocking the way."

(Photo via Blog Baladi)

To my colleague's luck, the phone had a broken screen and wasn't worth much (maybe enough to cover the $200 the burglar was asking for). But that aside, I can't help but wonder if Beirut is becoming more and more unsafe when it comes to petty crimes such as these. The thief had a Lebanese accent, northern as well. You can go ahead and blame the victim for not locking his door, but who would expect to be robbed on a highway at a red light? There were a few cars around him, yet none of the witnesses did anything to help him. There's already enough insecurity, instability and an overload of refugees in the country - the number is estimated at 1.1 million. According to a 2013 report by OSAC, there was a significant increase in the number of reported incidents of petty theft, burglary, robbery, auto theft, carjackings, bank robberies, and violent assaults in Lebanon.

Most street lamps on roads, main highway arteries, underpasses and regular streets are turned off at night, which automatically makes you more unsafe than in broad daylight. My friend survived that night with a mere cut on his hand, but imagine what could have happened instead: the assailant could have slit his wrists or even his neck with a potentially fatal outcome.

The real question is: how can we, as ordinary citizens, combat these types of crimes? If the police can't fully protect our communities, what can we do to rise up against these types of petty crime?

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