Crime in Taiwan

I’m currently writing an essay on the different perceptions of crime in Taiwan of foreigners and locals, so I was hoping to get some comments and stories from the Formosa community. Generally foreigners feel that Taiwan is an incredibly safe place to live, and I’m no different in that respect. I’ve been here for 3 years and only had a scooter helmet and the lights off my bike stolen, however, I’ve also encountered street gangs and drugs, although not in a way that has unduly affected me. I’ve also heard that fraud is a big issue and corruption is endemic, but I’d like some of your opinions.

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A few threads that may be helpful to you: … =8&t=82347 … 9&t=105954 … =8&t=18826 … 2#p1455352 … 29&t=91823 … 89&t=65857 … 89&t=33796 … 89&t=87889

The law breaking that I find most infuriating: … 8&t=116411

I don’t believe I’ve been robbed here (touch wood); I never feel at deliberate personal risk here. However, the driving is criminal (often literally). A decade back some of my circle were able to get hold of drugs without much difficulty, but that was their hobby, not mine, so I’ve never had contact with that side of life here. I very seldom feel uncomfortable on public transit, which is certainly different from North America.

So, theft, assault? Not even an issue for me. Illegal and unsafe driving habits putting us all in danger? A very serious issue that infuriates me most times I walk out the door. Corruption, particularly with regard to environmental concerns?: an issue that pisses me off whenever I read about it, but I’m not conscious of it in day to day life.

hmmm, your question has quite a few levels… I can voice my opinion about few of them

  1. How foreigners’ crime is treated compared to Taiwanese - I think the difference is mostly with the small crimes - such as breaking traffic rules. It is legendary how you can be stopped by police here and let go because they don’t speak English. Last year it had happened to me too :blush: I felt bad, but I was in a hurry and turned left on my scooter, instead of doing the double turn left manouver. Policeman let me go very quickly… I have pretended not to speak Chinese even I could understand every word, and I knew I’m guilty. :liar: I do feel bad about it. My Taiwanese boyfriend really hates that as he got loads of problem with a DUI that he got into thx to his American friend who didn’t put a helmet on and insisted on a ride home from the party. He is sure it would be no problem if he was an American too… who knows…
    But I do know of some foreigners being in jail here for drugs. And I do think if a foreigner cause a serious accident he will not be treated lightly.

  2. Mafia - all locals tells me Taichung is a mafia city… never felt that in anyway.

  3. Theft - in my previous uni campus bags were stolen sometimes… or bicycles (mine was stolen, found in in different part of campus 3 days later and took it back). I do know a case of an older foreign lady who while walking on the street was mugged by a scooter rider. The worst was her body was so roughly twisted at the accident it gave her very serious spine problems. So well, things happen… I do think Taiwanese see white people as “rich” so maybe need to be careful and keep your wallets close. But it’s not especially bad, compared to other countries in my opinion.

  4. Fraud - locals tell me there’s loads of these. Sometimes I am getting some calls, possibly from those fraud companies, but I never admit to speaking Chinese so they disconnect by themselves.

Overall, I feel it’s safe. Sure, there is crime everywhere, but it’s safer than my own country I think (Poland).
The only thing that I don’t feel safe about… actually that makes me pretty scared everyday… is the traffic. I need to commute on a scooter in Changhua countryside everyday, and that really scares me.

Awesome. Thanks for your replies. This is exactly what I’m after. I agree, I’ve heard of some more serious crimes here, but very seldom directed agains foreigners. I used to live in Taichung and as a guy, the gangster thing was only a problem if you hit on the wrong guy’s girlfriend, although I certainly went into a few places that had an air of tension that you don’t find as easily in Taipei. As far as drugs are concerned, I’ve been to a few raves here and I’ve seen my fair share of Taiwanese and foreigners on drugs. There are also the local dealers that I’m assuming are gangsters, but have never talked to so can’t say for sure. Anyway , cheers for your help.

He got caught for DUI because the police officer pulled him over as the guy riding pillion wasn’t wearing a helmet. Would he have taken a taxi had his American friend not insisted on a ride home? And why didn’t they just share a cab?

That’s what I was wondering. If he got caught for DUI, he has no one to blame but himself.

Not sure if this is directly relevant to your essay, but I believe the concept of crime is different in Taiwan (or possibly Chinese society in general).

Witness the recent lack of furore over professors at top universities submitting fake receipts. In ‘The West’, you’d be fired on the spot and, more than likely, prosecuted. In Taiwan, university administrators are asking for leniency (ie., immunity from prosecution) because they’re professors. In other words, because they are ‘persons of high status’, they are not criminals. A criminal is a nasty guy in a betel-nut stained wifebeater and flipflops, not a man in a suit with a PhD. Interestingly, the administrators also stress that it’s hard to get quality staff, so they don’t want to fire these people either; although Western students would be deeply upset to find themselves attending lectures by someone accused (with strong evidence) of theft, this is apparently not the case in Taiwan.

Basically, it seems that ‘crime’ depends largely on (a) who you are and (b) whether society in general disapproves, regardless of the letter of the law.

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@ finley.

You actually raise an issue that I was thinking about myself. It occurred to me that other than capital crimes, because of the different perceptions of what is considered a crime by different communities, it would seem to me that comparing crime in different societies would be fairly difficult. It’s actually people’s perceptions that I’m interested in. I really want to compare the way foreigners view crime in Taiwan with the way Taiwanese view it. It’s been pointed out to me by Taiwanese friends, that sometimes we foreigners are a bit naive in our views about crime here, but I wondered if that’s because we don’t see a lot of the crime or also because our perceptions of what constitutes crime is different. I take it in Taiwan, fraud, is a much less serious crime than it is in the West.

What about guys looking at my package when I use public bathrooms. Is that a crime? I can’t help but to feel violated

Great points, but to be honest it’s not that far removed from the slap on the wrist HSBC just received for fairly deep involvement in drug money laundering. Or, the way crack (a drug generally viewed as taken by blacks) is penalized compared to cocaine (rich bankers).

Do what I do: Just assume that they’ve never seen anything so gargantuan and take it as a compliment. :astonished:

Although I’m pretty sure the public restroom sneak-a-peek is common the world over. :sunglasses:

That’s your own fault. You should only take enough out to take a leak. Not all of it. You show off!

they were probably squinting to make sure you do have a little fella hanging there.

Could have been part of a Seinfield episode :laughing: The sneak-a-peak doesn’t bother me so much, well, even that is a bit awkward :ponder: But the occasional glance back and forth between his package and mine sort of thing is just creepy. It sort of reminds me of someone at the store looking back and forth at a particular bunch of fruit having a hard time picking out which one they think has the ideal ripeness. At least my balls aren’t getting squeezed on. Speaking of squeezing balls, that reminds me of the first time I used the restroom at the 2-28 park. No body warned about that place, but that story probably belongs in another thread.

@ bunko8 - Yes, They’re always squinting when they look at me going pee. But it’s always in an evil plot sort of way, or maybe the way a diva squints her eyes when she’s in the company of common people, not the way people squint trying to focus on something small like I first thought

I think you are off the mark. People are outraged about the faculty submitting fake receipts and prosecutors are planning to prosecute them for fraud and corruption (since they are civil servants). These are serious charges.

You are correct that university presidents and others have been calling for leniency. I wouldn’t be surprised if they prevail, but there is certainly plenty of anger in the public about this. It is seen as a crime. There is justifiable cynicism about whether these members of the elite will actually get punished for their thieving.

In the west, this doesn’t happen so oftern because at least in the US, we don’t let faculty handle grant money personally. They get grants and then do purchasing through a centralized system to avoid fraud. We don’t trust people not to be greedy, so there are systemic checks to make it difficult. Also, we pay faculty a lot more, so there is less incentive to steal. Of course there are always case like Celia Chang of St. Johns U and Adelphi university.

I think this is true everywhere Finley. Consider the MPs expense claims scandal in Britain. Very, very few were prosecuted but most of them had shady practices going on.

I know what you (and others) are saying, and I agree - corruption, graft and the rich evading the law is a human constant - but I still think there’s a subtle difference. Maybe I chose a bad illustration. Take the issue of driving behaviour, which I think was mentioned above. As everyone knows, the ‘right of way’ system works something like this: Blue Truck>Bus>Taxi>BMW SUV>Car>Scooter>Pedestrian. Foreigners generally take this as lawlessness, or a might-is-right attitude, but it isn’t. It is The Law. If you don’t believe me, ask a few Taiwanese people. They fully accept that this is the way it works, and that if you attempt to follow the highway code (yes, there is one) while driving a scooter, you will eventually get knocked over by an SUV running a red light, the driver will come out screaming with a tyre iron, and the police will back him up. I exaggerate of course - that only happens sometimes. But my point is that the law here is a more fluid concept. It’s not what’s written in the statute books: it’s what society at large agrees upon.

Likewise with the Mafia. In the West, criminal gangs don’t pretend they’re legitimate businessmen. Here, they often ARE legitimate businessmen: partly because they operate in a legal grey zone of red envelopes and nepotism, both of which are deeply-ingrained cultural concepts and not technically illegal; and partly because society in general accepts and makes room for their continued existence. I think this is so mainly because Taiwan has a very weak legal code, full of laws that make little sense or are hard to enforce (even if there was the will to enforce them). Therefore people make up laws that (to them) make more sense, and “elect” people (ie., the local Da Ge, who in the boondocks is also the local legislator) to enforce those laws. It was (apparently) ten times worse a few decades ago, and old habits die hard, especially since the police and judiciary are even further behind than the general public.

On the subject of fraud, I get the feeling a lot of Taiwanese people don’t even understand the concept. I mentioned elsewhere that my father-in-law recently bought into a Ponzi scheme and got half his extended family involved. The guys at the bottom have belatedly realised they’re not going to get any payback unless they enlist more people (which they don’t want to do) and have come to F-i-L for explanations. He asked me to come along to a meeting with the (foreign) owner to translate, which I did. We both sat and listened to the guy’s spiel (I had to admire his brass neck as he laid out in words and pictures how a Ponzi scheme works) and I asked F-i-L afterwards if he fully understood what was going on. “I think he’s a good guy”, he said. “It sounds like a good business idea”. Now, he may have just been covering his face, but I don’t think so. I told my wife what had happened and she also didn’t understand why (in most countries) it’s called fraud. Yes, some people are angry at the people caught thieving at universities. There are still plenty more who consider it a legitimate perk of the job. The wife used to “do the books” many years ago for one of her professors, and apparently this was an impossible job, because there were so many people with their sticky fingers in the pie. Nobody considered it Wrong. They were just faintly embarrassed that it was causing her so much ma fan covering their tracks.

:roflmao: :roflmao: :roflmao: :roflmao: :roflmao: :roflmao: :roflmao: :roflmao:

I tink oyu havent lived in the west for a long time if you think that.

Um … OK, “The West” was not the right word to use in that context.

In most of Western Europe, they’re criminals, they know it, and they’re proud of it (Italy is probably the stand-out exception, especially in the south). Their business ventures are the usual ones - drugs, prostitution, etc., and the police do at least attempt to shut them down. In Taiwan, gangsters are on the sidelines of various important parts of the economy, especially civil engineering. Bribes, threats and more subtle shenanigans are still quite routine, and nobody considers this particularly abnormal. I’m not saying this never happens in (for the sake of argument) Europe: it does, quite often. The difference is that everyone knows they’re breaking the law and go to great lengths to hide the fact. In Taiwan, as long as you take reasonable precautions, nobody’s going to bother you.

Anyone making facile comparisons between Taiwan and most western democracies and concluding they are largely the same in levels of corruption, and in the level of organized crime in politics and normal economic activity is talking nonsense. I suggest starting with Heijin a book on the modern history of organized crime in Taiwan. In the late 80s there was a perfect storm: hundreds of gangsters who had been swept up in Operation Cleansweep were out of jail, the country was democracizing, and the Kmt needed to run people with strong local connections. The gangsters saw this as the perfect way to protect themselves (operation cleansweep had been an eye-opener as they had previously thought thrmselves too big to fail). So they went into government and the country has never been the same.

Outside of Italy there is really nothing comparable in any othet democratic western system.