A special team of 100 volunteers from all walks of life acts as a neighborhood watch in the busiest areas of Beijing.
"I got a phone call two days ago from a stranger, and was told that I offended someone and he will cut off one of my legs," Mr. Shi Lin said casually while driving. He has known that such thing could happen once he became an anti-theft volunteer.
A special team of 100 volunteers from all walks of life acts as a neighborhood watch in the busiest areas of Beijing. Shi is the team's founder and leader. "We seek neither fame nor wealth. We share a common desire to create a world without thieves. You know, it is easy to get into the habit of catching thieves," Shi said humorously.
As a veteran soldier who joined the army in 1997, Shi is good at the art of catching thieves. He once caught a thief in Beijing. He knew that there were non-governmental anti-theft teams in many cities throughout China, but there was no such organization in Beijing. "What our society needs is a kindhearted attitude towards people and a righteous spirit, and volunteering for anti-theft activities is a way to promote such a spirit," Shi said. After careful consideration, he posted his ideas on the Internet, and many people agreed with his beliefs. The Beijing Anti-theft Team was founded in July, 2008.
Over the past three years, nearly 100 volunteers have joined the team, and more than a dozen participants view themselves as active members. "We have talent from various fields, including doctors, lawyers, security guards, police officers and taekwondo experts," Shi proudly said of his team.
A new member of the team said he used to be a police officer and had been a volunteer for anti-theft activities for over two years. He was very excited to join the team. "Working as a team makes it easier to succeed, and is also much safer," he said.
A team member nicknamed Cheetah is a travelling volunteer. He catches thieves in various cities during his spare time. Now his contract with his company in Beijing is nearing an end, so he plans to move to a new city and continue fighting crime.
Team members' wives are very supportive of their husbands, and some join the Anti-Theft Team. They are in charge of searching for clues and collecting material instead of participating on the front-line. "My wife is also a member now," Shi said.
Catching thieves is not an easy job. All members have their own full-time jobs in addition to their team duties. In order to be more successful, members have to make specific plans, get up early and actively cooperate. Bravery is not enough; members must also be intelligent. The team will only take action if the stolen goods and victims are both on-site. Shi told the reporter that almost every thief they caught was equipped with knives or other weapons. Thanks to the team's careful planning, no members have been harmed.
One can easily imagine that such a group of enthusiastic individuals will often face danger and receive ominous threats. If injured, members need to pay for medical expenses themselves. "We can't tell the insurance company that we are engaged in anti-theft activities, otherwise they will refuse to give us insurance because this is a high-risk job," Shi said.
Shi always asks his team members to be on the look-out for evidence, to properly protect themselves and the law. He also warns against taking impulse action. The team's actions in Beijing are productive, but he hopes to receive more support and recognition from society and more protection through the legal system.