Posted by: mollyscafeistanbul | January 18, 2011

the police and molly’s cafe

A few days ago a reporter came to interview me about theft for the newspaper. I am famous in the neighbourhood for having had three laptops stolen from my first café across the street, so I am sure that the tea guy suggested that she talk to me. I told her about it and also said that the thief sometimes comes to my door. Now I get mad and chase him off. At any rate, the article was published yesterday in the Star newspaper. It seemed to put quite a bit of blame on the police not doing anything, along with requests from me and the other people interviewed (four altogether) for cameras on the street, more lighting, and a more obvious police presence.


When I saw the article I was pleased because there was a big photo of my street with my sign evident. I saw it as free advertising. However, since then I have been very popular with the police.




Last night I had closed the front doors, leaving one slightly open so the last customer could leave. A friend was here and we were all getting ready to go. I heard the front door creak open and stood up to tell the people that the café was closed. Instead, I was confronted with a group of four men who were sivil polis– undercover police. One of them had a photocopy of the article in his hand. They asked me about the thief and I told them it was two years ago, but that sometimes I saw him and occasionally he came to the door of the café I always chase him off, telling him to fuck off (my Turkish disappears when I get mad and I don’t know how to cuss very well in Turkish anyway). One of them gave me his card and told me if I see the thief (I know his face very well– ugly, like a beaten rat), I should call them. OK, thank you, and good night.

This morning as I was coming to the café, I saw two guys talking to the tea guy. I could tell that they were civil police and I overheard Huseyin telling them about my laptops being stolen. I looked at them and mouthed ‘polis?’ and they nodded. I laughed and told them I knew it when I heard Huseyin mention a laptop.


Then when I had settled in and was checking my email and smoking a cigarette (smoking inside is banned now in Turkey), a man came in. I had been expecting someone from a bread company, so I thought it was him. It wasn’t – it was another civil police. When he told me that, I said I had better put out my cigarette then. He replied that no one was here, so it did not matter. What he wanted was to find out where the other people who had been interviewed were. I didn’t know them by name, so I suggested he ask the tea guy. Off he went to do that.


A few hours later I was smoking in the entryway (sort of a no man’s land, as it is not part of the café proper) when a group of men came in. I realized that these 6 or 7 guys were civil police. The head of them sat down on a chair and smoked a cigarette with me. He said they were unhappy with the article and among other things asked if I had the phone number of the woman who had interviewed me. No, but later when I reread the article I realized that they could search for her on the newspaper web site. At any rate, the officer told me that the new chief of police had set up a safety team in Beyoglu and that the civil police were everywhere, either walking around or selling simit or chestnuts. I had heard for years that many of the simit sellers were actually police, so it was interesting to know that it was true. He suggested again that if I see the thief to call them. I pointed out that if the thief didn’t have stolen goods on his person, there was nothing he could do. Yes, but he would realize that they were onto him. (This is all very free rendering of our conversation in Turkish, I have to say). Then perhaps he would go somewhere else. Right.


All in all, it was a congenial and interesting conversation. He asked if there was anything I needed– just more customers, I said. As they I joked with them and told them to bring chestnuts next time and that I would offer coffee or tea.


So, it has been interesting! Since I am western and a woman, I am not scared of the police. I think Turks interact with them differently. In fact, many people either distrust or despise the police. In the past they were very corrupt and I think they are still trying to shake that reputation. In fact they are much better trained now and less likely to get out of hand. For now, I am glad to know that the civil police are around and I hope next time the thief stops by I have the presence of mind to call them.




  1. It’s such a relief that the police are trying to shake off that nasty reputation. Seems the RCMP here in Canada are doing the opposite, with all the allegations of brutality appearing in the newspapers. Maybe we should invite some Turkish polis to train our national force a few things. Send me a piece of carrot cake Molly!

    • Hi Molly – glad to see that the cafe is still going strong! If I ever get back to Istanbul, I am stopping by. Sorry to hear about the laptops, though! If I come, I’ll bring a brick of cheddar cheese for you, maybe in exchange for some of your goodies!

      Jen A…

  2. Interesting about the simit sellers! Ugly thief who stole your computers – awful. But I love the picture of you smoking when the civil policeman comes in, and you sound like Lauren Bacall. 😉

    • thanks for comparing me to lauren bacall! she said you can never be too rich or too thin and here i am neither! ah but the police love me 🙂

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