From ‘jambret’ To ‘begal’: A Glossary Of Criminals

Ahead of the 2018 Asian Games, the Jakarta Police are carrying out a crackdown on thieves and robbers in the capital. The force has deployed 1,000 personnel in 16 teams from all police precincts in the capital for the operation, which began on July 3 and will last until Aug. 3.

By the third day of the operation, the Jakarta Police had investigated 69 street crimes and detained 73 suspects. Twenty-seven of the suspects had been shot in the leg for resisting arrest.

The police have been given the order to shoot in the case of resistance, as stated by police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Argo Yuwono.

A high-profile series of robberies was reported in the capital in the past few weeks. Government officials such as Syarif Burhanuddin, the Public Works and Housing Ministry's housing director general, and President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's expert staff member Armedya Dewangga were among the victims of these crimes.

Although many news media reported that Armedya was a victim of a begal, the perpetrators were actually maling, given the lack of violence or threats used in the crime. He was fooled into stopping his car, rather than being forced to do so—the latter being a quintessential begal move. Meanwhile, director general Syarif was a victim of a jambret.

The nuance of crimes in Jakarta might be hard to navigate. Here is a glossary to better understand the differences:

'Begal'

This term refers to a specific type of robber who operates on the streets. A begal, a Javanese word, was traditionally on foot lurking in deserted places like in the forests of Java to rob passersby at the point of a weapon. The term has been included in official Indonesian dictionaries and in the contemporary usage means robbers who ride motorcycles armed with bladed weapons or guns. They corner their victims to steal their belongings, with the highest-value target being a victim’s motorcycle, hence the term begal motor. Because of the rise of violent motorcycle thefts across the country committed by begal, the term has risen in popularity, and sometimes is used inaccurately to describe other types of robbers such as jambret or maling.

'Maling'

Similar to burglar, a maling is usually stealthy in his operation and the target is a house usually at night or during the day when the residents are out. A maling could also steal from a vehicle or steal the vehicle itself.

'Perampok'

A robber who uses violence and/or weapons. A perampok usually targets a house or shops. The difference with a maling is that a perampok is more upfront. In daily conversation, people sometimes shorten the term to rampok, which is actually the verb for “to rob”.

'Penjambret'

A thief who snatches valuables and quickly runs away. The colloquial name for the person is often shortened to just jambret, which is the verb form meaning “to snatch”. A jambret is traditionally on foot, but today a jambret pair riding on a motorcycle and targeting the bags of a victim who is either walking or riding pillion on a motorcycle is common. This is dangerous since the victim might lose balance and fall or be dragged by the jambret’s motorcycle. But usually the violence is only a byproduct as jambret do not use weapons.

'Copet'

A common pickpocket. Similar to maling in terms of secrecy and stealth, but a copet usually operates on foot and in crowded places where they are hard to notice. Usually the victim is only aware long after the copet is gone. A copet targets small objects like wallets and cellphones.

From ‘jambret’ to ‘begal’: A glossary of criminals