A Qatar resident whose iPad and wallet were stolen out of her unlocked car while her nearly five-year-old daughter slept has spoken about her frightening experience to warn others not to be complacent with their safety.
Australian Katrina Hicks, who has lived in Qatar for 18 months, had been collecting her three-year-old daughter from Giggles Day Care in Al Gharafa just after 4pm yesterday.
Her older daughter had fallen asleep in the car and rather than wake her, Hicks said she left her, strapped into her car seat, while she ran in to collect her other child from the nursery.
When she returned to the car several minutes later, she found her older daughter screaming. Speaking to Doha News, Hicks said:
“She was hysterical. I asked her what had happened and she said, ‘a man opened my door and took my iPad.’ “
Hicks, who is a nurse at a school in Al Rayyan, said the iPad had been fixed to the back of the front passenger seat for her daughter to use, but the attachment had been torn from the seat and was gone.
She later found the holder discarded at a nearby bus stop, she added.
Her wallet had also been stolen from the front passenger seat of the car, where it had been sitting on top of her handbag, she said.
It is not clear who took the items.
The mother of two has reported the incident to the police, who have taken fingerprints of the car.
“They were fantastic. Really supportive and helpful, although they said it might take several weeks for any information,” she said.
Hicks added that the nursery is opposite a construction site, which closes at around 4pm. At the time of the robbery, there were around 20 men milling around, waiting for their transport. However, none of them have so far come forward as witnesses to the incident.
Yesterday, Hicks shared her story on Facebook, attracting some criticism for leaving her child unaccompanied in a car.
But the mother said she shared what happened to her because she wanted to warn other parents about crime in Qatar, so that they would not be complacent about their belongings, and especially their children.
“There is a belief that Qatar is safe. But things do happen here, although they are often not reported. I know other parents who leave their cars unlocked, often with siblings inside, while they drop-off or collect their other children.
I know in hindsight what I did was unacceptable but it was an action of complacency. I had been in Doha a little while and I got complacent. I would never have done what I did elsewhere. I thought my daughter was safe, but of course no child is safe in a car on their own. I am serious about my children and their safety.”
While Hicks said her daughter wasn’t physically injured in the incident, she is wracked with guilt over what happened.
“What I did was a mistake and I don’t think this is something that I will get over for a long time,” she added.
The manager of Giggles Day Care, Natasha Moorcroft, told Doha News she would be writing to all parents of children at the nursery today to advise them of the incident to warn them not to leave children or valuables in their vehicles, and to lock their cars, even if they are only away for a few moments.
Meanwhile, Doha College has today contacted all parents of pupils at its two campuses warning them that a number of students have been approached and followed by strangers in cars while walking home from the British school’s Al Waab campus.
Headmaster Mark Leppard said in an email to the school community:
“Despite (Doha) being extremely safe, we need to ensure we are vigilant and make our children aware… In the last few days it has been reported to the college that a couple of students walking home alone have been followed and even approached by strangers in cars.
The incidents that have been reported to us have taken place close to our Al Waab campus. The cars have approached students as they have walked past the crossing at Al Waab junction, opposite the American School of Doha and also on the road to the rear of JBK Compound.”
Leppard said that the incident has been reported to the authorities, but asked parents to advise their children of the potential dangers, and to report anything suspicious to the school management, recording the make of car and number plate if safe and possible to do so.
While the rate of reported crime in Qatar is relatively low related to other major cities internationally, incidents do occur.
Earlier this month, a British expat spoke out about a burglary at his standalone villa in Ain Khaled while his family was asleep upstairs, and warned residents to take basic precautions to secure the safety of their homes.
And in March last year, there was a spate of car break-ins around Doha. One resident, Annaline, told Doha News at the time about how her wallet was stolen from her unlocked car in broad daylight outside a nursery in Abu Hamour, while there are periodic reports of items stolen from cars outside schools and nurseries around town.