I've proudly proclaimed to vast amounts of people "I feel safer in Saudia than in any western city". For the most part I still stand by that statement. I've been in and out of the country for the past few years and apparently, things have started to change while I was gone. Car-jackings, robbing people at ATM's, gang-rapes, motorcycle muggers grabbing mobile's out of people's hands as they talk as well as traditional pick-pockets are in the papers almost daily. I think what is most shocking to people is the perceived escalation of such crimes at such a fast pace. Are these things still happening at a much lower rate than in any typical western country? Yes.
It didn't take long after entering England for us to be a victim of petty crime. In fact, it took only a few weeks. Several of our friends had their houses burgled and in one case, the thieves were in their bedroom as they slept. In four years time, several of our friends had been the victim of crimes in addition to us and I was even the target of a physical assault as I walked down the street pushing a small EttaMae in her stroller.
In the almost 10 years in Saudia I have never been the victim of a crime. I only know one person amongst ALL the people I know that have been the victim of a crime; my SIL had her purse picked as she was shopping in the souk, but didn't discover it till some time later. I've heard of some things going missing from the majlis* at my in-laws house several years before I went there, but keep in mind that normally the front door to the street, which is adjacent to the majlis door, is wide open most afternoons to welcome in visitors (and apparently some wayward teens). In the souk, the most advanced security system in the world is used as a theft deterrent: tarp. Tarp is thrown loosely over the merchandise as trusting shopkeepers leave their goods completely unattended as they go off to pray.
I've been taking walks with EttaMae almost everyday a bit before sunset to burn-off some of her boundless energy, just the two of us, me and my little girl, two lone vulnerable females. As I walk through the neighborhood I notice that like my at my in-laws, there are many houses with the front doors left wide open. I've noticed the way I feel as I'm walking as well. While in the west, I follow all the common sense rules I've been taught since childhood; use the buddy system, don't walk alone at night, check under your car from a distance before you get in case someone's waiting under your car to ambush you, hold your keys or pepper-spray in a ready position in case you need to use them. I'm always "battle-ready" when I go out and to describe me as alert is an understatement. However, I've never yet had that feeling here. You couldn't pay me enough money to walk alone past abandoned urban construction sites in the west, what better place to lay in wait for a potential victim and then than that! I don't have that same feeling of foreboding here as I walk past the several unfinished houses that line my path.
I'd be in denial if I claimed that crime doesn't happen here and I don't need to hear about so-and-so who had this-and-that happen to them in Saudia. I know bad things happen here. And I don't need any smart-alecks trying to turn the comments-section into discourse on terrorist boogiemen…those kinds of attacks are very few in comparison to the thousands of heinous murders and assaults that occur daily in western cities. I used to live in the (at that time) murder capital of the U.S. and there were two murders and a hostage situation that happened in the vary apt. building that I lived in (during the course of two years). But Alhamdulillah (thank God), although things like this happen in Saudia, they are so few and far between that everyone in town knows about it when it happens. And don't bring up the hand-chopping thing: DD says he hasn't heard of anyone getting their hand cut off since he was little and attributes this lack of an effective deterrent to the ever-increasing crime-rate.
So as my western readers check the locks on their doors and windows, turn on their alarm systems and make sure the motion detector light is working before they go to bed, know that many of us here in Saudia still have our doors gaping open. Naïve? A bit, maybe.