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May 17, 2012

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Thefts reveal lax hotel security

THREE luxury hotels in Shanghai were told to improve their security during a court hearing yesterday when a man was charged with thefts totaling 230,000 yuan (US$36,400) in 14 star-rated hotels in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou.

The suspect surnamed Chen was caught in a five-star hotel in Jing'an District last November.

Prosecutors said Chen would go to the entrance of buffet breakfasts and pretend to make a phone call while actually listening to guests revealing their room numbers.

He then went to their rooms and asked cleaners to open the doors. Chen sometimes told a cleaner to clean the bathroom and sometimes he claimed that he had an urgent matter but had left the key to his wife.

Most hotel workers would let Chen enter the room for fear their refusal would incur complaints and a salary deduction, prosecutors said. When they finished cleaning, Chen had already left with cash and other valuables from the room.

Between July 2010 and November 2011, Chen used the trick to steal cash and valuables worth over 230,000 yuan in 14 hotels in the three cities. Sixteen people became victims but few reported to police after reaching compensation deals with the hotels, which themselves stayed mute to protect their reputations.

In response to the scams, the Shanghai Tourism Trade Association will establish information-sharing mechanisms and step up security education at hotels.

Information about crime cases and new trends that threaten guests' security will be released as quickly as possible, said Qiu Yongqiang, secretary-general of the hotel industry branch with the association.

"The crimes exposed some loopholes in hotels' management," Qiu said.

Many hotels are subjected to high turnover rates, and many new staff workers don't receive specific training, he said.

Some hotels fail to respond quickly when suspicious people walk back and forth at the restaurant or the lobby area and staff members, some at the management level, lack security awareness, said Qiu.


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