On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Criminals more daring with weak police force

Despite locking the steering wheel and activating the
anti-theft alarm, Khoo found his car stolen from a designated car park about
100 metres from where the function was held.

He was invited to the launch by PJ Utara MP Chew Mei Fun
whose house was burgled last year.

Khoo lodged a report at the Damansara Utama police
station three hours later.

Interestingly, snatch theft victim Cheryl Chow Bor Ling,
who was paralysed after the incident eight years ago, recalled that the snatch
theft occurred in front of the Damansara Utama police station.

Her father, Chow See Jeok, claimed that there had been
many such cases in the area.

Recently, I was told of an attempted snatch theft in
front of the Mont Kiara police beat base. The quick-thinking woman squatted the
moment she felt the bag strap being pulled.

The beat base was unmanned at the time and the victim
left the affluent area without reporting the case. The snatch thieves, who fled
on their motorcycle, were believed to be foreigners.

The point is this: the criminals are getting braver these
days and seem more ready to challenge the police.

Several top officers of the SEA
Park police station in Petaling
Jaya were transferred recently after Bukit Aman was informed that two illegal
Internet gaming outlets were operating 100 metres from the station. All these
cases give the force a bad image.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Bakri Omar must be
congratulated for sending a strong message to his men: change your mindset or
face the litany of public complaints against the force.

He said if the police ignored the call to change, society
would continue to complain about inefficiency and graft in the force.

"We are responsible for marketing our image. We must live
up to society's expectations of us,'' he said at the Senior Police Officers
College in Cheras on Friday.

An honest approach in tackling crime and the continuous
revamp of the force is necessary for the police to be effective.

No senior policemen should be placed in a particular
district for too long. The government must also support the request by the
police for more constables.

Modern anti-crime equipment such as closed-circuit
television is needed in the absence of policemen on the beat.

CCTV has been effectively introduced in many cities such
as London and Hong Kong,
with the police beat base acting as the control point.

Police vans equipped with monitoring facilities could be
used in busy areas, particularly near banks, tourist spots and shopping

My greatest concern is that a week from now, when the
media has lost interest in the snatch theft issue, the authorities may lose
their zeal too.

There is plenty of hot air now with the usual statements
from politicians, social activists and non-government organisations, who seem
more interested in seeing their names in print than looking into the welfare of

Worse, there are suggestions from minor bureaucrats that
the media should not highlight this issue because tourists would stay away from
Malaysia. In
short, they are asking the media to cover up these criminal acts.

The authorities should not wait for another victim to die
before they respond to public anger; the situation has reached boiling point
with 43 reported cases a day.

And it was public anger that made bystanders assault a
snatch thief in Klang (the man later died in hospital).

The public must not be allowed to take the law into its
own hands. Such mob mentality is a reflection, to some degree, of the lack of
confidence in the police force.

As Bakri correctly said, the image of the force is
important. Malaysians have passed remarks, rightly or wrongly, about cops
stopping motorists for bribes when they should be going after criminals.

Fighting crime, however, is not the job of the police
alone. They are already hard-pressed with the shortage of detectives.

Bakri deserves all our support to fight crime because we
know he is a no-nonsense and clean policeman.