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Indonesian Police Cross-Dress to Fight Crime

In Muslim-majority Indonesia, criminals have long dressed up as a woman wearing a hijab to get away with crimes. This time, police turn the tables around.

by Ikhwan Hastanto; translated by Jade Poa
18 July 2019, 10:14am

CCTV FOOTAGE OF A MAN DRESSED AS A WOMAN BREAKING INTO AN ATM. PHOTO FROM POLDA METRO JAYA ARCHIVES.

After hearing reports of robbers targeting “mother and auntie figures on motorcycles”, Medan police devised a plan to lure the assailants into their laps. Instead of hunting them down, they decided to put themselves up as bait by disguising themselves as women on bikes, so the attackers would come to them.

With the assailants turning increasingly violent and causing unrest in the community, police had to act quickly to put them behind bars. They decided to execute their plan after Indah Kristiani, a certified auntie, sustained serious injuries after an attack.

“After studying their MO, we finally got the idea to disguise some of our men in nightgowns and hijabs,” Arifin told Kumparan.

They immediately formulated a strategy. Arifin and his Pegasus Team would pose as women and bystanders at a mugging hotspot on June 15.

They didn’t have to wait long. One mugger showed up and began to attack the hijabi “auntie,” who was riding her motorcycle alone on an empty road. Without much resistance, the assailant, Gopal – many Indonesians go only by one name – gave himself up to the police.

After catching Gopal, police began to dissemble his network, including his co-thieves, which included a 17-year-old. Police also confiscated a knife, one screwdriver, stolen motorcycle keys, and various items of clothing as evidence.

The group told police they had conducted five robberies in East Medan. “They wait for a victim, then they kick the victim’s motorbike and drive off with it,” a Medan Police spokesperson said. The suspects are now looking at a five-year prison sentence.

This case is unique because assailants are usually the ones posing as women in hijabs to get away with crimes.

Last year in Bandung, for instance, a 20-year-old motorcycle thief disguised himself as a woman in a hijab while he raided apartments.

This March in Jakarta, police caught an ATM thief on CCTV. He was wearing a face mask and a hijab as he emptied ATMs using the skimming technique. When police raided the thief’s apartment, they found an entire ATM machine, two ATM cards, and Rp 300 million in cash (US$21,500) – stolen from over 50 ATMs.

But not every cross-dressing criminal had intentions to pilfer valuables or large sums of money. One underwear fetishist posed as a woman in a hijab to steal women’s underwear from apartments in Tangerang earlier this June.

This guy went the extra mile. He not only wore a hijab, but an entire midwife student’s getup, down to the underwear. Police caught him in the act while one of his victims was in the shower.

And the gender swap strategy isn’t just preferred by men. In Yogyakarta, a female thief disguised herself as a man and snuck into the men’s section of a Quran recitation to steal cellphones.

The suspect looked the part, but acted too suspiciously and ended up getting caught with seven cellphones in her bag.

This article originally appeared on VICE Indonesia.