Chris and Janine Pluger have a translation ministry in Zambia among the Nsenga people. As you know, life is very different there than in the U.S. Here is a look at the Zambian Criminal Justice System, as experienced by the Plugers following a minor home robbery. This story was originally published on the Plugers’ personal blog, on April 22:
Last night, some unscrupulous individuals hopped over our fence and used a bent wire to reach through our burglar bars, hook the box containing all of our DVDs, and run off with our entire movie collection*. (This process, incidentally, is known locally as “hooking.”)
Chris discovered the theft early this morning when he noticed a long piece of wire inside our living room window. This led further to the discovery of the empty DVD box (the box itself wouldn’t fit through the burglar bars), and, more disturbingly still, a knife also laying on the floor.
Our next-door neighbor is a police officer, so we called him. He graciously came over on an early Sunday, expressed his sympathy at our loss, reminded us to lock our windows every night, and told us to file a report at the police station.
Chris, full of dubious skepticism at the efficaciousness of filing such a report, dutifully headed to the Petauke Police Station at 0700hrs. After about an hour and a half of report-filing, Chris just made it home in time for church, with reassurances from the police that they would “most probably” retrieve our stolen property.
Thankfully, we had all of our DVD titles listed on a computer file for easy reference. Also, the police were incredulous that a DVD collection could a) be worth so much money and b) be made up entirely of non-pirated original DVDs.
So, with a great deal of angst over the violation of our home and property, and filled with despair at the prospect of having to wait a really long time to again watch the Extended Special Editions of Lord of the Rings, we went to church. We were hurt and angry, which probably makes church a good place to be, but Chris doesn’t remember much of the service from this morning. Janine took the opportunity to pray that this situation, however crappy, would change a life for the better.
Before the end of church, however, Chris got a call from the police station asking him to please come back to identify some of his DVDs, which had been recovered.
So, we went. It turns out that an unscrupulous young man had been recognized wearing some clothes that he had “hooked” through the windows of the shop of a local merchant a few weeks ago. That merchant recognized his stolen clothes, chased and apprehended the unscrupulous young man, and brought him to the police station.
Lo! And behold! In this young man’s backpack were 41 original, non-pirated American DVDs in the same slip cases that Chris had shown to the officers that very morning. This young man may have been unscrupulous, but he was equally willing to avoid prosecution. So, he gave the police the names, descriptions, and probably locations of his two accomplices (whose idea, of course, this whole escapade was).
Police in Zambia operate on foot. There are no police cars. So, they asked Chris to provide transport for the apprehension of these further suspects. So Chris, a uniformed officer carrying a loaded AK-47, two plainclothes officers, and the unscrupulous young man in handcuffs all piled into our silver Ford Ranger. (Wisconsin Lutheran High School – we TOLD you we’d use this car for a lot of strange things!)
Chris really wanted the “Bad Boys” song from the old TV show COPS playing as they bounced along the dirt roads of Petauke chasing down these two other guys. We ended up visiting about 5 houses and a bar (one of the houses twice). The uniformed officer got to kick down a door. Three more pairs of handcuffs were deployed. The rifle was not discharged. 53 more DVDs and our external computer speakers were recovered.
We returned to the police station with 5 guys in custody (some were sharing handcuffs) and two rabbits (??). The police compared our list of missing movies with the recovered property. There was much rejoicing.
However, one of the three guys on our porch last night was not amongst the people taken into custody. And there were still 50+ DVDs outstanding. Nevertheless, we went home in much higher spirits than we had left. (Sean was quite happy that all 6 Star Wars movies had been recovered.)
A quiet Sunday afternoon was had by all. Then, about 1630hrs, one of the policemen called Chris again. He said that the third unscrupulous man’s location had been identified, and that transport was again needed. So Chris rushed to the truck/batmobile, raced to the police station, and brought 5 men to the site of the unscrupulous-man sighting.
He, too, was apprehended. This one was much surlier than the others had been, but in the end he came along. The door to his house was opened (not kicked) and 56 more DVDs were recovered. He was brought back to the station with a large amount of protestations in Chewa (Chris resolved to rededicate himself to language study in order to better follow such conversations in the future.)
In the end, less than 12 hours after the filing of the initial report, three unscrupulous men are in custody and all but two DVDs (discs 4 and 5 of Glee Season One) have been recovered.
A court date is set for Tuesday. A local insider assures me these guys will get at least six months of hard labor. In six months, the puppies will have grown into guard dogs, and we will have watched the Extended Special Editions of all three Lord of the Rings movies at least once.
The irony is that the prison to which these guys will be sent is closer to our house than the compound from which they were arrested this morning. But we pray they have learned their lessons about “hooking.”
*except some movies we have stored electronically on a portable hard drive, which thankfully was out of reach of the wire.