A few days ago (last Wednesday, to be exact), a co-parent in school was held-up in her car at gunpoint by a motorcycle-rider. This happened around dismissal time at 4 PM, in broad daylight!
My co-parent’s vehicle was parked along the side of a main thoroughfare, about one block from the school where our kids study, and right outside the center where our kids have Chinese tutorials after school!
I also often park there, and stay inside the car while waiting for my kids to get off school or tutorials. In fact, most of us (we’re all mommy-drivers) do the exact thing almost everyday – park on that side and wait in car. Sometimes we feed out kids or change their clothes in the car too.
The man initially circled my co-parent’s vehicle, and parked in front of it. Then he started walking towards her side (she was alone and seated behind the driver’s seat). She was surprised, and shocked when the man approached her door and ordered her to take off her bracelet and hand over her bag. She did exactly as told, trembling and utterly scared!
The man then peeked and saw another handbag in the front seat. He also told her to hand it over, but she refused, so the gunman fired a warning shot towards the ground. Then the man opened the driver’s door and took the handbag himself. He simply sped away like it was just another day in his life.
Nobody seemed to have witnessed what went on, since it was dismissal time – most fetchers (drivers, yayas and parents alike) were busy picking up their wards in school. The other moms, whose cars were parked next to the victim-mom’s vehicle, just went into the tutorial center minutes earlier. It seems that the holdupper waited for the opportune time.
My co-parent – I cannot even begin to imagine how she felt and still feels after experiencing such a horrible thing – is still traumatized. Being held-up at gunpoint is a different level altogether. It’s scary! But life has to go on, so she is still doing the school rounds.
What happened to her is a difficult way of learning being reminded of lessons on safety. Here are a few that come to mind:
1. Holduppers, con-men, bad people – they think of stealing, robbery, theft at every waking hour. They wake up and think “Saan kaya ako mag tatarget ngayon?” They make a living out of stealing. So while we walk around distracted with our tasks and problems, they too are walking around alert, ready to prey on willing victims. That’s what will put food on their tables.
2. Women are easy targets for holduppers. Add these to the picture – lugging heavy schoolbags and herding school children. Boy, are we glorious victims in their eyes! I think it is the reason why school areas are great spots for holduppers.
3. Never, never, never, never, never idle in your vehicle. Especially, don’t do it with windows open, and in deserted spots. I have a feeling that the holdupper must have been passing by the same spot often and observed the exact vehicles parked there almost everyday. With windows partly open, he must have seen that most of us were women with children. “Aha! Jackpot!”
4. Be wary of your surroundings. Be observant and alert. Before getting into your car or getting off, look around if there are suspicious persons. Avoid wearing flashy jewelry or using gadgets while walking on the street. Teach your kids basic safety measures too – such as locking doors as soon as they get into the car.
5. Don’t leave valuables bags in your vehicle. Bags left lying on the seat attract robbers, whether they contain valuables or not. Robbers will take the risk. I have a friend whose car window was broken by a robber to steal her gym bag. Save for the pair of Nikes and an expensive half-emptyfull bottle of perfume, all the bag had were stinky gym clothes! Mas mahal pa ang window repair expense. *sigh*
6. Sometimes breaking habits help. Vary your routes going to school and home to avoid being followed. Don’t always park at the same spot. Remember, con-men are observant. Kidnappers usually observe their victim’s habits before moving in.
We already know most of these tips, and it shouldn’t take another harrowing experience for us to learn to be safe.
If I missed other important tips, please comment and share yours. It will surely be helpful to warn each other, especially during these bad economic times and everyone, including thieves, will need to do more to survive.
There are traffic enforcers and barangay tanods all over school, especially during dismissal time. But that spot – just a block away from school – they seem to have failed to secure. I spoke to one of the traffic enforcers (from the QC DPOS – yung yellow-and-blue boys ng QC). He said the PNP is blaming them for their failure to secure the premises of the school. As usual, nagtuturuan. What else is new…
By the way, the mommy got the handbags back. Except for the cash (pati coins nilimas!) and cellphone, all documents, cards, IDs, keys and everything else were returned intact. The robber apparently left the bags in a certain barangay hall, which in turn called up the mommy to claim the bags.
So all’s well that ends well, eh?
Be safe with security fence installation.