Protecting our streets

Tricia Yeoh
The Sun
30 May 2013

LAST week was the very first time I experienced crime personally in the country, despite having written about it as a policy issue. Parked on the side of the road in a housing estate in Section 5, Petaling Jaya, I made the mistake of leaving my laptop bag on the passenger seat while chatting on the phone.

A motorbike with two riders came by, smashed the side window, opened my car door, and rode off having stolen my laptop and handphone, to my great distress.

That very night, 18 protesters were arrested by the police after failing to disperse at a candlelight vigil for student activist Adam Adli outside the Jinjang police station.

While I very much commend the efforts of the officer and inspector who dealt with my case efficiently, it must be noted that there is a gross discrepancy between what the public sees as efforts to combat street crime versus that of conducting rampant arrests.

Over the last few years, a number of groups have been formed to increase awareness and offer solutions to overcome crime, such as Safer Malaysia, Malaysian Mothers against Crime, as well as similar proposals made by think-tanks such as Research for Social Advancement.

Many of these suggest that the government seriously consider transferring police personnel from units like the Special Branch – which essentially deal with collecting intelligence for political purposes – to the Criminal Investigation Department to increase street patrols especially in hot spots.

That evening when I made the police report, I was told mine was the fourth such case that day with similar accounts and in the same area. If places like these had been marked as hot spots, surely the police could have made arrangements for increased presence in the locations.

The unfortunate result of the police being used for politically expedient reasons is that the public links them with arrests of opposition leaders.

In the last week alone, politicians Tian Chua and Tamrin Ghafar, as well as activist Haris Ibrahim were arrested on grounds of sedition, but were later released as the magistrate decided their detention was without basis. Citizens are all too aware that the police have but little choice in the matter.

There is certainly value in urging for police co-operation in fighting crime, which is workable but only to a certain extent, given the political climate. A more realistic way might be for the community to organically initiate movements of their own, thereafter inviting the authorities to collaborate.

Safer Malaysia, in their document “Visions of Safer Malaysia” (available on their website) plans on implementing an interactive website that would include a public crime map for any citizen to gather information about crimes in the community. Reports and alerts would also be made available to the public.

This would be an ideal use of technology, given the steady rise in smartphones and gadgets.

It must also be acknowledged that an increase in crime is directly correlated with a worsening economy. This is an issue too complex to address in this short space, but suffice to say that the government’s priority should be to increase disposable income of the lower to middle-income groups.

Another proposal from Safer Malaysia is that a convicted wrongdoer must be exposed in the media, to be ridiculed and frowned upon. This may only work if the community collectively places sufficient social pressure against people resorting to petty theft, despite being in desperate socioeconomic conditions.

Finally, many have already noted the role that the Rukun Tetangga community service used to play in the past. This needs to be revived with the support of local councils and the police force, with shared information, maps and schedules of the times in which crimes are most likely to occur.

The private sector can also play an important role by sponsoring increased lighting or additional security measures in a particular area. After the harrowing experience, I would repeat a mantra already often said: leave no bags in sight in the car, and pay special attention to surroundings.

Taking matters into one’s own hands is acknowledging the failure of the system to protect its citizens, but one wonders if there is any other choice.

  1. #1 by yhsiew on Tuesday, 4 June 2013 - 8:17 am

    Why must we rakyat waste our time to protect our streets? After all we have already paid our tax to the government. Isn’t protecting the streets the job of the government? If the present government is not able to protect our streets, the simple solution is to change government in GE14 !!!

    • #2 by buylower2003 on Tuesday, 4 June 2013 - 10:32 am

      Why wait for GE14? They will cheat again, as usual. Change them NOW!!! Must we wait until our streets are as dangerous as New Delhi?

  2. #3 by lee tai king (previously dagen) on Tuesday, 4 June 2013 - 9:52 am

    To my mind there are three levels to fighting crime.

    Level 1: Education and job opportunities.

    Inevitably, this measure will take a lot of people off the streets, esp the youths. With a steady source of income and a career to look forward to, they would be much less likely to waste their time loitering and looking for mischiefs to commit.

    Level 2: Crime prevention by law enforcement.

    Obviously level 1 is not enough simply because it is not perfect. It will still let pass some hardcore idiots who are hell bent on committing crimes (e.g. umno idiots who sees votes buying and corruption as an untouchable and unquestionable ketuanan right). Here law enforcement people must carry out their duties strictly as a means to deter those who are minded to commit wrongs to hold back.

    These two measures ought to be sufficient to keep out streets reasonably safe. But in malaysia, umno has failed to keep out streets safe because umno’s effort in both level 1 and level 2 are clearly lacking. We have lots of unemployed (unemployable?) youths and as if the problem is not serious enough umno saw it fit to import more youths from neighbouring countries (who serve umno’s purpose in general elections). And not to mention the corrupt police force whose are only concern is championing umno’s cause. The result: rampant and intolerable crime. And the consequence: Level 3.

    Level 3: Living in steel cage. Fear of the dark. Paranoia-like awareness and precautions. These are measure taken by the people to protect themselves and their properties. These measures are necessary because umno has failed to do its job.

    I only hope we will not descend further to level 4 which I did not mention above. To me level 4 means crime fighting (unlike prevention in level 3) by the people. Umno has another 5 yrs to plunge the country further down. I am too afraid to think of what would happen.

  3. #4 by Cinapek on Tuesday, 4 June 2013 - 11:01 am

    Section 5? Isn’t this in the vicinity of the robbery case where a mother was stabbed to death by two criminals on a motorcycle when she tried to protect her daughter?

    If so, clearly the police has not been effective in protecting this area despite the tragic consequences of these criminal acts. My daughter lives not far away in Section 14 and has to take a walkway from her condo to the Asiajaya LRT station to take the train. The condo management has recently warned the residents to beware of robbers. Apparently there have been a few robbery cases recently but no action seems to have been taken by the police to prevent any future robbery attempts. There is no policemen in sight anywhere and the stakeholders who benefit the most, such as the LRT operators, do not even bother to station some security men nearby. The police could at least sent some policemen occassionally to patrol the area and show their presence to send the message to would-be robbers that this area is being watched. Compare this with the actions of the US police when my child was studying there. When there were a couple of complaints of minor misdeameanors on campus, immediately the police increased their presence with police cars and uniformed policemen standing by.

    Meanwhile, my daughter has to resort to carrying a pepper spray just in case. But I have told her not to resist and surrender what the robbers demand.

    Is this the kind of life the average Malaysians are condemned to living for today and tomorrow? If the police are not going to do anything, the people may be driven to take the law into their own hands to reclaim the streets for their family and children.

  4. #5 by Bigjoe on Tuesday, 4 June 2013 - 11:48 am

    Botom line is really, so long as UMNO/BN is in charge, our streets will never be safe..Period.

  5. #6 by good coolie on Tuesday, 4 June 2013 - 12:07 pm

    The writer admits she had made a mistake in not taking proper care of her property. This indicates that crime can be reduced through the co-operation of the public.

    On the other hand, laxity in immigration control, insufficient attention to the needs of marginalised youth, and overall income disparities, coupled with inefficiency in dealing with the drug and gangsterism problem, feeds crime, and puts intolerable strain on crime-prevention authorities.

    Instead of suppressing embarrassing statistics we should start facing up to reality.


  6. #7 by PoliticoKat on Tuesday, 4 June 2013 - 9:54 pm

    Like everything in Malaysia, if you want something done you got to do it yourself.

    It like Education in malaysia, it is neglected by the government. Waiting and hoping for improved standards and places at public university (which our tax money goes to help pay) has never worked. 40 years and still nothing.

    Same thing with crime, waiting and hoping that the government will turn back crime is a waste of time. If you want a safer street, go out and make it safe.

  7. #8 by Noble House on Wednesday, 5 June 2013 - 1:18 am

    The task of crime prevention and public safety at local level is now the sole responsibility of the people themselves. The top echelons in our PDRM are busy playing politics while those in the lower rankings are preoccupied with checking on expired road-tax and traffic offences, or merely acting out as UMNO foot soldiers.

    What you need is a Vigilante Corps ala Rambo style to keep safe in the neighborhoods.

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