Wednesday, 7 January 2009 11:35 AM

Stealing for Black Marketing

The whole practice starts with 'cheap rates' on cigarettes and alcohol but black marketing in Solomon Islands is branching out fast in selling stolen items.

Police told Solomon Times that it is becoming a growing problem for them as people move around the capital city in organized groups to steal and sell.

This comes amid the current financial crisis faced in the Solomons, police state, and although they have made successful arrests, it continues to rise.

Solomon Times caught up with several victims around the city who have all expressed being "caught unaware" of valuable items missing in the middle of a busy street.

"My cell phone was stolen last month while at a betel-nut stall at the Kukum market," Elijah Ouwa of Malaita Province said.

He said that the phone was placed "right under my nose" on the counter and "it just disappeared".

Another victim, Cortis Pugeva, from Rennell-Bellona Province said his phone got nicked without him realizing.

"Someone who knew me saw this person trying to sell a phone and instantly recognised it as mine," he said.

The phone following some argument was successfully removed and returned to him, minus the sim card.

But police say this rising trend varies from small valuable items to huge saleable goods including hi-fi systems, laptops and video screens.

Groups are said to be more organized and have moved on to breaking into homes.

"We had a group of three young boys coming into our house and took off with valuable goods to a waiting vehicle just around the corner," Sevarlyn Patti informed Solomon Times.

Police state that they are doing their best to curb the problem.

"We have a specific unit in the force to deal with black marketing and they have had successful operations," they said.

Police warned the public to be alert at all time, especially when among a packed crowd.

But people approached expressed concerns that the trend is reaching a stage where lives are endangered.

They urge responsible authorities to create jobs that will help the restless young crowd earn incomes to meet their needs.