Nipped in the bud

Nipped in the bud

For them, inflight service means helping themselves to someone else's things while that person is asleep during a flight.

The first few cases on inflight theft emerged here in December 2011 and the problem has since proved to be a growing scourge of airlines.

The number of such thefts have been growing so rapidly that it prompted District Judge Christopher Koh to declare in September, as he sentenced eight Chinese nationals for the crime:"These despicable acts must be nipped in the bud before they get out of hand."

On Monday, another culprit was hauled to court. Chinese national Liu Yanjun, was jailed nine months for stealing a bag on a Tiger Airways flight on Oct 19.

Singapore's Airport Police Division noticed the trend early last year and their investigation revealed the culprits were from Henan province in China. Why Henan? The New Paper contacted law enforcement agencies and academics familiar with such crimes in Macau, Hong Kong, London and the US.

NOT NEW IN HENAN

It appears that Henan natives have been committing such offences in China for at least five years.

In 2008, a Henan native working in Shenyang, Liaoning province, reportedly hatched such a plan with two of his gambling mates.

Over six days, the three shuttled between airports in Beijing, Shengyang, Shenzhen and Nanjing, taking 10 flights and stealing about $18,400 (RMB 90,000) cash.

Such incidents have been on the rise in China.

A Hubei Television report in May, quoting sources from Harbin Taiping International Airport, said there has been a manifold increase in the number of inflight theft cases in the last two years.

A sociologist at Saint Francis University in the US, Dr Lening Zhang, said the densely populated province has a much lower level of industrialisation and urbanisation than other provinces on the east coast of China.

A majority of the population rely on their limited lands or small farms for a living, but many residents have gone to large cities for a better life, said Dr Zhang.

"Going out to get rich may have become a common belief in the province, no matter what type of means could be used."

It's quite common for people from one part of China to venture out and commit the same type of crime, said University of Macau sociologist Jianhua Xu.

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