A friend, A thief

One day I got a call from Melissa, who was our model in one of our shoots. Melissa broke down the news, her very close friend Riff, who also served as her make-up artist had been arrested by the police after he stole P130,000 from her dad. She was asking for my help as she knew I was working in the media. She wanted the media to cover the whole incident particularly the arrest and recovery of the stolen money and other goods.

I asked her how did it happen? she said that Riff whom they already considered as part of the family was able to enter their house while they were in a beach outing and stole the money kept in the drawers of the master's bedroom, cash which actually represented the day's sales of her father's business.

Fortunately when they reported it to the police, the investigators were able to zero in on the suspect and that was Riff. By the next morning 12 hours after the crime was committed, Riff was arrested. Recovered from him was half the money he stole (P65k). Plus some items he bought using the stolen money which included expensive cellular phones.

Adding to Riff's woes, one of the recovered cellphone was identified by one policeman as belonging to a couple who a month earlier filed a police blotter, alleging that during their wedding day, their make-up artist carted away an expensive cellular phone and a branded swiss watch. Upon close inspection of the recovered cellphone. It was indeed the one stolen from the couple. Two hours later, the couple joined Melissa's family at the police station to file a complaint against Riff.

Before the family filed a case against Riff, they held a meeting to determine their cause of action against the suspect. Back in their minds they were thinking of forgiving Riff and just dropping the case. Riff is basically a good guy gone wayward, he could use this chance to straighten his life.

I then shared my experiences about a fellow photographer-hobbyist, he had successfully courted and entered into a relationship with one of my female friends and had become part of our clique. He was a very nice and amiable fellow until one day, one of our friends, an American had his wallet containing P15,000 stolen while we were hanging out in the American's house.

At first he was the farthest suspect in our mind, but an incident of theft occurred which involved a common friend and where he was pinpointed as the likeliest suspect. Days later he admitted the crime to my American friend. Fortunately for him no charges were filed provided he pay up the amount he stole.

I told Melissa that no TRUE FRIEND would ever think or do an act like stealing money or valuables from you or your family. Unlike let's say a physical assault ala Mayor Sara, or a verbal defamation where an offense committed could be attributed to rising tempers or "heat of a moment." Theft is a deliberate offense where there is a considerable amount of time spent in planning and executing the crime. The fact that he consummated the crime meant that the criminal did not consider you as a friend or worse hid under the cover of friendship to mask his vile motive.

The ability to overcome emotional attachment and continue with the crime actually shows his veteran criminal instinct. This is the fact with Riff, who also stole expensive items in numerous other instances (Melissa has been flooded with Private Messages from other victims).

As the station commander said, if we just forgive the guy and let him walk out we have no assurance that he would stay in the good path there's a chance that he would set forth to victimize other people again.

"Buti nalang hindi tayo nabiktima." one of my co-hobbyist said when I recalled to him the incident. I've met these guys in photography and had worked with them in some shoots and indeed we were lucky we were not victimized.

The question is how we avoid such incidents from happening. Based on experience culled from my friends including Melissa's I can think of only some pointers.

1. Don't be too trusting--

In photography or any hobby or endeavor we get to meet new friends. Some of which could be so charming and friendly making us relax and lower down our guard, this should not bar you in making friends though, there are many sincere people but there are a few rotten apples. Make your long-time barkada as your yardstick in trustworthiness. Theft manifests in many forms, these would include unreturned borrowed items or unpaid debts.

2. Keep Watch Be Alert--

Keep an eye on your things, don't be burara or clutter-happy. Enact a security protocol during shoots or activities like limiting strangers in the set particularly when it is not an open photoshoot. During open photoshoots, bring what is only needed or necessary since you will have many strangers lurking around.

* names had been changed for privacy of the parties

17th National Crime Prevention Week Sept. 1-7 2011
"PiNoy ako, Crime Prevention Misyon Ko! Knock Out Crime!"


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