Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pick... Pick... Pick-Pocket Police (or How the Whole Police Department Got the Flu)

A rare, indeed singular, photo-free post.  I guess we just weren't in the photo-taking mood...
Our final day in Mongolia was spent shuttling between the various police stations to file the necessary incident reports. Our first stop was the main police station. We arrived at the empty station and took a number, like we were at the deli counter. Five minutes later an officer spoke to us in Mongolian. When we replied in English, it became clear that this officer would not be able to help us in any meaningful way. He directed us to return to the waiting area. About ten minutes later a man in a suit poked his head out from the large double doors leading into the station. In good English he said, "please follow me," turned around and started walking. Scrambling to put away our kindles, collect all our goods, and pack up the backpack we made it though the doors only to find a long corridor with multiple stairways. Our man was gone! Wandering around the police station we began poking our heads into the various (and empty) offices and hallways. Finally, after cruising around, our man pops his head out of his office and waves us in, giving us a look like we were totally crazy for not knowing where his office was in the giant station.

Situated in his office we began explaining how we were robbed twice, and our fears that this would be a difficult process were confirmed. We made pickpocket gestures, my standing around dumbly while Jesse looked around furtively and then reached into my pocket and took my wallet. Our charades were not helpful. Next, I pulled out the report that I had written up explaining what happened and what was stolen. I handed him the paper hoping that he could just stamp my handwritten report and that this could serve as our police report. Instead he took the paper and intently stared at it for a good five minutes. Now, the only thing on the sheet was the date of the incident, a one sentence description of what happened, and a list of what was stolen. After this deep pondering he picked up the phone and spoke with someone for about another five minutes. Long enough that Jesse and I were beginning to feel optimistic. But, we shouldn’t have been. Eventually, he returned my incident report (the one I wrote), unstamped, and gave me an envelope on which he had scribbled something in Mongolian. He keeps pointing at the writing and saying “police, pickpocket police.” After much back and forth we concluded that he has given us the address of the tourist police, or the “pickpocket police” and it is they who can fill out police reports for, as you would think, pickpocketings.

Back on the Mongolian streets we made our way to the next police department. After a few stops for further directions, we finally arrived at a housing complex where we were assured was the office of the tourist police. We cruised between the apartment buildings, and then we finally saw it; the tourist police department. And the entire police station was moving. That’s right. The station was literally changing its physical location. Movers, [JLM: they could have been robbers], were carting out tables, file cabinets, and even televisions. They were tearing down shelves, painting the walls, and scrubbing the floors. We peeked our heads in and gingerly made our way to a desk where we explained we needed to file a police report. We were instructed to sit down and wait. So wait we did. At one point while we waited the men torn a shelf off the wall and flung aside, except that it was hurled right towards us! The large plank of wood, with chipped paint and large nails sticking out of it missed Jesse’s head by on a foot or so.  At least the other officers/movers chastised him to be more careful as this was still the working tourist police station.

Eventually a man motioned that we should come into his office. I went in and explained how I was pickpocketed and we completed the report. It was fairly straightforward. I was shocked. I took my copy of the report, and then I explained that there was a second incident. And this is where things got tricky. At first he thought that we had put the wrong date down and wanted to change the date on the first report. Of course, I would not give him that report back. As I continued gesturing that we had a second report to file, a separate incident, on a new date, he interrupted me and I thought that he understood. Actually, it was just lunchtime. He packed up his pens and pads and simply walked out leaving me standing in his office, as he headed into the next room to sit with two other officers and began eating their lunch.

When he was finished with his lunch he walked back to the office where we had completed the first form. He waved me back in, and as if we had not just done this 20 minutes earlier began asking me about the second incident. By this time, however, the movers had reached the office we were working in! And as we were filling out the report they were literally taking pieces of furniture from the office and bringing them outside. We finally completed the report as the movers waited, watching us  slowly fill out the tiny form. As soon as he handed it to me and I packed it up, they grabbed hold of the desk we had been working on and headed out. The desk actually made it out of the police station before Jesse and I did!

In the end we got our police reports –whatever they might say – and had a bit of an adventure getting them. Ready to leave Mongolia we were excited to get back on the train and head back to Russia, hoping all our documents and visas were in order….


  1. that sounds sooo weired!
    i whish it was a joke, but i guess it isn´t


    A Group of teenage pick-pockets assaulting now almost every foreign tourist making his or her way
    between Department Store and Central Post Office in Ulaanbataar. The only effecctive way way to fight
    them is to secretly film them and make them online!!!!!!!!!!!


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