On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Do away with the lame excuses

Last week, it was reported that more than half of the
councils had yet to install these cameras under the Safe City Concept initiated
by the Housing and Local Government Ministry.

The installation of these cameras – one of 23 measures under
the programme – has been proven to be effective in curbing crime, including
rape, theft and extortion. The police also can rely on such cameras to nab

In addition, they also act as a deterrent as criminals know
their movements are being monitored and recorded.

In many major cities worldwide, these cameras have become a
common feature in tourist spots. Visitors are able to move around with the
knowledge that the authorities have their safety in mind.

Our councils have claimed that they lack the funds to
install the cameras despite collecting revenues of more than RM10mil a year. In
some cases, their collection even crossed the RM20mil mark.

Let's face it. The police, which is already facing a
shortage of personnel, can only do so much. Fighting crime is everybody's
business. The councils can do their part by making sure the streets are
well-lit and there is also CCTV surveillance. This is a modern way of crime

Councils responsible for town-planning can do a lot to
ensure a safe city. Pavements, overhead bridges and parks should not have
hidden corners and blind spots. Lights placed at strategic places can ensure
that people are not up to mischief.

In short, this is to make it difficult for potential
offenders to target any physical object or human for crime. The cameras are
just one example of creating a safe environment in cities.

But now we hear the lame excuse that councils have no money.
Such an excuse does not hold water because we often read reports of councils
spending huge sums on their own buildings. Not to mention, ugly sculptures and
fountains that do little to beautify the towns.

The latest example is the Sungai Petani Municipal Council's
installation of 10 clocks worth RM390,000 around town, and already some of
these clocks have stopped functioning.

There are other worse examples, including the many overseas
study tours which have always come under criticism from rate-payers like us.
But we can be sure that this will not be the last that we will hear from the
councils about such trips.

What is sad is that instead of going to nearby Singapore,
which has earned a reputation of being a green city, and Kuching, which has
even received United Nations recognition for city maintenance, our councillors
choose to visit cities that actually have bad track records.

Our councils seem to have a penchant for grandiose projects
but the rate-payers merely want them to get back to the basics of providing
services to the people, such as prompt maintenance of drains, roads and
collection of rubbish.

Our local government leaders, unfortunately, seem to be more
preoccupied with seeking city status, achieving ISO recognition, with some even
aspiring for world-class standards when in our own backyards, the simple task
of collecting rubbish cannot even be properly carried out.

The installation of CCTV cameras is surely an essential
need. It is not a question of whether they want to because an order has already
been given in 2004 by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, who
chairs the National Council for Local Government.

The average cost of installing these cameras could run up to
RM200,000 or more but the councils must see this as an investment. It is
peanuts for rich councils with revenue of over RM10mil.

For example, the crime rate in Bukit Jambul, Penang,
reportedly dropped by 68% after such cameras were installed.

The problem with the local government is that they are
getting their priorities all wrong and in the process, good money has gone to

The Safe City Concept deserves the support and participation
of the people, police and councils. It will never take off if the councils do
not see it as an urgent agenda.

There is little point in nodding their heads in agreement
when meeting Najib or Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Ong Ka
Ting but on returning to their offices, they put the file at the bottom of the

Let's not give this excuse any more because it is just not