I have to say that for it’s size, Taipei is probably one of the safest cities on Earth, right up there with Tokyo. I wander around this city at night with no sense of being in danger at all, and when I ask my female students if they feel threatened traveling home alone at night, the answer I get is “not at all”. Yes, there are crimes just like any other major city, but for the most part they’re “victimless” crimes such as robbery and theft. But, even then I wonder sometimes why there are bars on almost every window in Taiwan. Are they a relic of the older, less safe days? If you ask people why they are there, they’ll say “because of thieves”, but there never seems to be any mention of thieves in the paper and I haven’t heard of anyone whose house got robbed. Maybe that’s because the bars work? I don’t know.
That said, there is one aspect of crime and lawlessness that does seem to plague Taiwan, and that’s in the form of organized crime. While the streets aren’t very dangerous, gangs and gangsters have a lot of power here as they do anywhere in Asia. A few weeks ago a rich businessman got kidnapped and his family had to pay millions to contacts in China for his release. Often the local gangsters co-operate with ones on the Mainland because they know because of the problems between Taiwan and China, they’re safe. It’s kind’ve like “running for the Mexican border” used to be in the Old West.
So far, I’ve managed to avoid running into them. I hope to keep it that way.