Safety in Taiwan: The Heat is More Dangerous Than the Crime

One of the best parts about living in Taiwan is that this island is very safe.  I had always assumed that Taiwan would be safe, but I had also expected, like I would in most other countries, that I wouldn’t want stay past a certain hour in certain areas of Taipei City. In my own native Dublin, it is quite common to hear about people getting mugged. I knew a Chinese exchanged student who was mugged after returning from a late night with friends. She was by herself walking down a gentrified part of Dublin that was still quite dangerous at night. She didn’t understand that there are certain parts of the city, particularly after dark, you don’t want to be in when you are alone. It was hard for her to know considering the area was gentrified and only a local would know if it was safe.

As a foreigner, I was worried that I wouldn’t know where was safe and where wasn’t. Fortunately, I learned that Taiwan is very safe.

Since coming to Taiwan, I have yet to have seen violent crime on the surface of society. What I mean by that is, of course there are issues of crime, but I sense that in Taiwan, it does not boil over into plain sight, unlike in many Western countries. I get the feeling that if someone did try and mug me in Taiwan they would say sorry to me (歹勢) for giving me an inconvenience and compliment me on my Mandarin(你的國語很好). Gentlemen muggers if you will.

Taiwan feels very safe, and the statistics don’t lie.

1. Taiwan Crime Rates Compared to the USA

According to NationMaster, Taiwan is ranked 128th in the world for its crime rate of 13.57 crimes for every 100,000 person (out of a total of 132 countries), while the USA is ranked 45th, with 55.84 crimes for every 100,000 person. The US crime rate is 4 times higher than Taiwan.

Taiwan crime rate

US crime rate

Most of the stats on drug usage, incarnation rates and the feeling of being safe are all lopsided. Taiwan has a very low rate on drug usage and incarnation rates and has a higher rate of citizens feeling safe when compared to the US. Even when compared to the UK and Ireland, Taiwan still has a crime rate 3-4 times less.

2. Taiwan Crimes Per Region (for every 100,000 person) in 2016 (Taiwanstats.com)

Household Burglaries (住宅竊盜):

1. Natou County 南投縣 (7.61)

2. Hualien County 花蓮縣 (7.51)

3. Yilan County宜蘭縣 (6.98)

4. Yunlin County 雲林縣 (6.69)

5. Keelung City 基隆市(5.63)

Sexual Assaults (强制性交):

1. Penghu Islands 澎湖縣 (1.96)

2. Jinmen County 金門縣 (1.55)

3. Chiayi City 嘉義市 (1.48)

4. Hualien County 花蓮縣 (0.9)

5. Taipei City 臺北市 (0.89)

Vehicle Theft (汽車竊盜):

1. Hsinchu County 新竹縣 (13.75)

2. Miaoli County 13.75苗栗縣 (11.48)

3. Chiayi City 嘉義市 (11.44)

4. Tainan 台南市 (8.7)

5. Taoyuan 桃園市 (8.37)

Drug Related Crime (毒品):

1. Keelung City 基隆市 (72.66)

2. Chiayi City 嘉義市 (50.18)

3. Taoyuan 桃園市 (43.65)

4. Pingtung County 屏東縣 (42.48)

5. Taipei City 台北市 (35.37)

The most prevalent crimes in terms of crime committed per 100,000 people is drugs. Unsurprisingly, Keelung, Taoyuan, Pingtung and Taipei City were all areas of high rates of drug crime in Taiwan, with Keelung City having a massive crime rate for drugs. I never realized until I researched the statistics, just how much crime in Taiwan is related to drugs. As I have written before, Taiwanese society and media is obsessed with drug crime.

3. Crime Rates Might be Low, But Scams are Common

Taiwan is well known across the world for its famous directors, semi-conductors, beautiful women and telephone scams. It is a very prevalent problem, particularly abroad. The Taiwanese government has found it very frustrating when these scam artists are caught in other countries because they are usually deported to China, not Taiwan. Spain, Kenya and many other countries have deported Taiwanese scammers to China. There has been a lot of nationalistic fervor from the government and many Taiwanese that these people should be sent to Taiwan. Personally, I can’t think of a worse punishment than them being sent to China for a crime. That is a real punishment all right.

I also get many invites and messages on my Line account. On any given day I am invited to join pyramid schemes, hookers or car dealerships to talk about changing my life for the best. There has also been quite a few times in bars and on the MRT when people would take an interest in me. I alway assumed it was because I am foreign and sooner or later the conversation would deteriorate to them trying to scam me with something.

Also, because of Taiwan’s outdated banking system, banking scams are quite common in Taiwan. I never open or read any emails I receive from my banks because their emails can easily be duplicated and the safety measures made are so weak, that I am surprised online banking theft isn’t more widespread than it already is.

I have heard stories from friends about there were scams in which people who be called by a random phone number and there would be muffled screams in the background and the caller would tell the person on the other end to transfer “X” amount of money of their kidnapped loved ones would be hurt. I am not sure how common this is now, or if it is something that ever happened on a larger scale, but hopefully, you, dear reader, can leave some comments and let me know.

My advice for anyone getting scam phone calls is to simply either hang up immediately or waste their time. Just keep saying “yes” or “是” “嗯” to everything they ask until they eventually get sick of you and hang up. Nothing better than wasting their time; even if it wastes a bit of your own.

Despite my best efforts, I haven’t figured out how to stop the constant stream of invitations from scammers on Line. It would seem no matter what I do, people can still add me by my phone number, even if I change my privacy settings.

4. Final Thoughts 

Taiwan is simply a very safe place to live. I don’t feel afraid to walk around a park at 2 a.m at night with a beer. Instead of feeling like any second something could kick off and thinking “why didn’t I just get a goddamn taxi home, I need to take my headphones off in case someone comes from behind me “, I usually wonder “wow this traffic is loud, I better put the volume on my phone up to hear my music!”

Of course, if you were to look at crime from the perspective of traffic laws, Taiwan would not fair at all. While Taiwan is very safe in terms of violent crime, it is not safe when it comes to the rules of the road.

drivers

It is a funny observation that despite the crime rate being so low in Taiwan, drivers are atrocious. I am shocked there aren’t more serious accidents than there already are. The police do very little to stop drivers on scooters and in cars from breaking laws and as a cyclist and pedestrian, I sometimes don’t feel safe. Hell, people who drive expensive cars are the worst, they expect that they can do what they want and nearly run you over to get through a red light that just changed.

However, all in all, the general thesis of this blog post is Taiwan is a very safe place to live. It isn’t something you need to be too concerned about. I am more concerned about the summer heat and renewing my ARC than I am about my on safety in Taiwan.

Safety in Taiwan is one reason of many that I love this island.

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  1. Last week I was working out in the local park. Some dude in an old Mitsubishi Lancer with tinted windows was parked at the curb with the engine still running. He opened his window to throw some rubbish outside and then closed it again. I carried on with my skipping rope. A bit later on he did it again, so I walked over and challenged him to pick it up and put it in the rubbish bin.

    Dude was a skinny gangster type, tattooed all over and probably off his face on amphetamines. I stood my ground, and it was obvious he wasn’t going to take a swing at me, but the yelling in Taiwanese made me think it wasn’t worth it and I went back to do my final set. He kept his car door open and was eyeing me while I was skipping. Then a woman in the car said something and he turned around and punched her as hard as he could two or three times. I put the rope down but he saw me moving and took something out of the car door pocket. That something was a handgun with a fucking laser sight on the top of it.

    Now was it a real gun, or just a BB gun? I don’t know, but I decided I wasn’t about to find out. I walked up to the top of the park to turn onto the road leading to my alley and he followed me in his car slowly. I called the cops and gave them the license plate number (3M7356), I also went over to the local cop shop to explain in person and give them a description (I find it easier to speak Mandarin with eye contact than over the phone). I kept walking past my alley toward the local corner shop where there were more people. He stopped for a while and I glared back at him, but he had enough of a functioning brain left to decide to drive off.

    Now I appreciate your use of statistics, and particularly the caveat about road safety, but I suspect there may be a slight tinge of the “Taipei bubble” to your experience which is perfectly understandable. Now I would not make any claims for violent crime being higher here in the south than elsewhere, nor would I make any claims about unreported crimes and how the statistics would otherwise look if they did go reported, but I would point out that it’s probably not a bad idea to be a little security conscious wherever you go. For example, it probably wasn’t too bright of me to almost get into a fight over a tossed bit of fruit peel and sandwich wrapper. I should have let it go, though I do feel some guilt about not saving the woman by dragging his scrawny arse out of the car and beating him senseless. There are second and third order consequences to consider though, unfortunately.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Christ all mighty that is some ferocity. I think on the surface it’s not violet, but of course there is an underbelly of crime. I’m not denying that or playing up to this idea if a utopian Taiwan from a orientalist perspective of this place being something it isn’t to fit my narrative. But there is an obvious difference is crime and statistics prove it. Would really love to hear your response. Thank so much for sharing.

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      1. Sure. In general I agree with you, albeit with a heavy emphasis on that driving caveat. I would even go so far as to add an overlooked detail: the public parks in Taiwan are almost always havens for the elderly at any time of day or night, and this is one respect (among many) in which Taiwan is far superior to England. Little old ladies might go to the park to feed the ducks at two o’clock on an autumn afternoon in Newcastle or Edinburgh, but they by and large make sure they’re behind closed doors after dark. Here in Taiwan, the elderly wander around the public parks carefree at any hour of the evening, night, morning or afternoon, and this is perhaps partly incentivized by the provision of “exercise equipment” bolted to the ground.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Driving here is unbelievable. The driving test and the exam are laughable. I’ve seen the process and i’m not surprised drivers are bad. That said, my girlfriend is an excellent driver, so they all can’t be bad.

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  2. I forgot to add – the roaming gangs of teenagers with nothing to do that (were/are?) a drawback of life in England’s northern towns, are largely either absent here or are preoccupied with basketball courts and smartphone games. There is a homelessness problem which seems to be growing, and those people are likely to have mental problems that can make them difficult to deal with, but I’m not sure about the numbers.

    I should also add that there is probably reason to be at least somewhat suspicious of the National Police Agency’s crime statistics. Last year I tried to test the claim that the 2013 legislative and policy changes regarding drink-driving had led to a decrease in drink-driving incidents and fatalities. When I searched through the agency’s publicly available data, I couldn’t find the right categories of data to make a meaningful comparison, and so the Director’s claim had to be taken at face value. Either the data were there, but I simply erred in not finding them (which I don’t believe), or they weren’t made public to begin with. If the National Police Agency can make statistical claims which the public are unable to check for themselves, then that is a reason to be skeptical of those statistical claims, and perhaps even the statistics themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Really? I didn’t know that. I do know however, that even as a lowly APRC holder I can request documentation from the Water Resources Agency for my book, though I was advised to make all of my requests (there are a lot) in one single application.

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        1. My lecturer for civil journalism told me by law a Taiwanese citizen is entitled for any and all of that information, as long as it doesn’t go against someone’s privacy. The government has to comply with it. So, get a Taiwanese friend who has some guts and go get those documents.

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