Crime & Safety in Bali

Bali conjures up images of a place from another era. No industrialization, no fast paced lifestyle, just graceful people living a traditional lifestyle in paradise.

Some of that picture is true, especially in areas that have not been affected by tourism. Tourism has brought a clash of cultures and ideas, it has brought people from all over Indonesia and the world to live in Bali, and somehow make sense of each other. Most of time this human salad bowl works itself out, but on occasion things break down and your safety might be in question. On another level, the uneven income levels of expats from overseas and expats from other parts of Indonesia, means one side is always watching admiringly at the other’s material possessions.

Generally speaking Bali is a safe place to visit and live. At the time of writing I have lived in Bali for 3 years and 3 months, and have had no serious incidents regarding safety. A recent travel article, written by an admiring journalist, raved about Bali as being virtually crime free, and theft not being a problem. It is a problem, you just don’t see it. There’s an old saying, that every Balinese has a stick long enough to steal the fruit off his neighbor’s tree. Here in Bali the population density is quite high, and the climate means there are always plenty of people sitting outside, even in the evenings. People notice everything. Someone will see you getting that safe installed, bringing that new TV home and also see you head out, all packed up for a holiday.

Crime & safety for a tourist:
Tourists generally stay in guest houses, hotels and villas. Its a trade off as far as security. Guest houses are not equipped with strong doors, security or safes. However, everyone knows that if you stay in a guest house you aren’t loaded. Hotels often have a security safe, so random locals can’t just wander around trying the doors. Hotels often have a main safe, allowing you to store valuables. Some hotels even have room safes. The local newspaper carries reports of thefts from tourists, and the usual situation is someone leaves a bag of money, or jewelry in their room and its gone sometime later.

In my experience the incidence of pick pocketing is low, as is mugging. Generally Bali is a safe place to visit and walk around, even at night. To my knowledge there are not areas that are ‘no go’ as far as for safety reasons. At night time you have probably more chance of being attacked by a drunken tourist in Bounty Ship, than a Balinese local. If you do get into a dispute with a local, over money or some other thing, keep it civil, keep your cool and never use threatening behavior.

If something does happen to you, you might remember to photograph everything relevant, before other people arrive, also get witnesses contact info. The Bali Police have a hot line and promise to respond quickly to complaints. (0361) 224111. You will need a police report for travelers check and insurance claims.




Crime & safety for an expat:
Much of the above info applies to an expat. Living here we are in a slightly different situation than tourists. People have time to figure us out and we have possessions to be stolen. Ask any Balinese about motorbikes at night, and they will all say, ‘take your motorbike inside your compound, many thieves.’ One thing to remember when you own a house in Bali is, you can never leave it unguarded. Most expats who own their own home, or have a long term rental, employ security and pembantu’s (helpers) who are on the property. You can’t just build your dream house in the mountains, or on some remote coast, lock it up and go there on the weekends. It will be ransacked by the time you get back. A friend of mine who rents a place in Seminyak had a safe containing some beautiful Nikon cameras. Around the safe he build a brick housing, with metal bars and a big lock. One day when he was out, someone broke in and used the blue gas bottle to smash the brick housing. Must of taken a while, but they managed to haul the safe out, and the neighbors ‘didn’t hear or see anything’.

Generally burglars in Bali are looking for a couple of items, money, cell phones, jewelry. They want stuff they can turn over quickly. Burglars often try to rob a house at night, which might seem illogical, as that is when people are most likely to be at home. They are thinking of their escape and don’t want to be stopped by other locals in the street. The Bali Advertiser has a news item about a British expat who was attacked inside his house recently. According to the article ‘British expatriot Robert Miller (47), was brutally attacked and suffered multiple stab wounds to his limbs and body when 2 armed assailants entered his Taman Mumbul home late Saturday night’. It goes on to say ‘When Mr. Miller shouted to the men to ask their intentions, they immediately attacked with knives inflicting 8 stab wounds and all but severing Mr. Miller’s right hand’. Fortunately Mr. Miller survived and this kind of this is rare. You can find examples of violent attack in any western city.

The thing in Bali is the burglars are violent and not that smart, they would risk killing somebody, rather than just run off. Recently I talked to a member of the local ‘banjar’ about what to do in the case of finding intruders in the house. He said ‘Yeah, there are many people who belong to the banjar around, you call to them’. I don’t really know how that would work, if someone was trying to kill me at 2am, but its is a nice idea.

A loud dog is a great alarm system and also many people embed glass chunks in their perimeter wall. Making friends with your neighbors and treating other people well, is a great way to enhance your feeling of safety. Most people know me a Jevon’s dad and I’m sure would not let bad things happen if they knew about it.

The Seminyak area where I live seems okay as far as safety. The recent economic downturn has increased crime a bit, with a few bag snatching’s, but nothing more than that. If you have important documents or large sums of money to store, rent a safety deposit box at a bank. This is the most secure place you can use. Price is around 370,000 for a year.

The 2 houses that I have rented since living in Bali looking secure, with chunky doors, slabs of wood going across as a block and locks etc. They were not secure and I have managed to blast my way into both places by using my shoulder against the doors. That’s likely to be the case with many places. Like I say, since living here 3 years I have never had anything stolen, or had anyone try to implement a crime on me.