MY colleague Johan Fernandez had a rude shock when he returned to Kuala
Lumpur after working for five years in New York, where he was the
newspaper's North America Editor.
A car which was on loan to him when he came home was stolen after just one week.
Despite our perception, mainly from news reports and Hollywood movies
that the Big Apple is a dangerous city, Johan was never mugged. It
could have been just plain bad luck that the car was stolen, but I have
a feeling that he believes things have changed much in Kuala Lumpur
since he left.
If the authorities have their way, they would not want the media to
report too much on crime. They are worried investors and tourists will
stay away if there are too many crime reports.
It would not be wrong to assume that the authorities do not feel
comfortable with reports of snatch thefts, rapes and robberies,
preferring not to read about them, believing that they would go away if
we close one eye.
They have always argued that this was to protect the tourism industry but the denial syndrome has led us nowhere.
The fact is that most Malaysians, especially those in major towns,
believe that their neighbourhoods are no longer safe. Generally, they
feel that there are not enough policemen on the beat.
The other often heard complaint is that there are too many foreigners
in the country now. Never mind that most crimes are committed by
locals. But instead of having professional expatriates, we think there
are too many foreigners with little skills, or none at all, in
Worse, when foreign labourers and petty traders get their permanent
resident status with ease, we have the right to question the criteria
used to provide them this privilege.
We are told that the criteria are stringent, but we cannot be blamed for being cynical.
Today, many Malaysians, especially those in the Klang Valley, Penang
and Johor Baru do not feel sufficiently comfortable with the security
situation in their surroundings.
According to the 2004 Quality of Life Report, the crime rate per
thousand of population has increased from 3.8 in 1990 to 6.2 in 2002.
We can assume that the figures have remained unchanged.
Deputy Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan had said on July
28 that many Malaysians fear for their personal safety in the future
because juvenile crime is on the rise.
Statistics show that some 10,000 youths and 4,000 schoolchildren were caught for various crimes and vice activities last year.
On June 7, Kuala Lumpur police chief Deputy Comm Datuk Sulaiman Mohd
Yusuf said the city's crime index involving violent and property crime
went up by 3.9% in the first five months of the year, and that the
situation needed to be given serious attention.
Selangor has the highest reported crime rate, accounting for more than 28% of the cases nationwide.
In May, Datuk Michael Chong, who heads the MCA Public Complaints and
Services Department, reportedly said data show that some six women are
raped every day in Malaysia between January and March.
The data, obtained from police records, show that the number of rape
cases had gone up significantly from the average of 4.7 a day between
1997 and 2004.
Figures on the Malaysian police website showed that the number of
violent crime cases had increased every year, from 21,604 cases in 2000
to 22,133 last year.
In January, the then Deputy Internal Security Minister Datuk Seri Chia
Kwang Chye said crime was bleeding the country, with losses estimated
at about RM15.3bil in 2004.
The consolation is that our police rate of solving crime has
consistently been higher than Interpol's standard of 20%. The Rakan Cop
programme in Kuala Lumpur has also resulted in the overall crime rate
falling by about 20% since its introduction two years ago.
But discussion about crime must go beyond statistics. We are talking
about human lives and certainly the police force, which faces funding,
manpower and facilities problems, deserves all the support.
For the record, its strength is 90,000 men. However, less than 10,000
of them are assigned to fight crime. They need another 15,000 to 20,000
men if they are to fight crime effectively.
We must get our priorities right.
How can the Government convince the rakyat
that we cannot afford to pay our policemen better and yet channel funds
for controversial projects such as the multi-million sports training
centre in Britain?
What do we tell the parents of Lee Khian
Yip, the 18-year-old student of Kolej Tunku Abdul Rahman (KTAR) who was
attacked by two men? That he was not careful enough?
With 11As in the SPM examination, there was so much ahead of him but the cruel killers ended it all.
The same night, another KTAR student Phang Kar Wei was attacked and slashed by two men on a motorcycle.
Last Sunday in Johor Baru, make-up specialist Indra Shahril Mohd
Salleh, 32, was found brutally stabbed and slashed at his shop in Jalan
Dahlia 10, Taman Dahlia.
There is a public outcry now because of these incidents. However, would
all these be forgotten one week from now and would we be making another
round of similar complaints when another incident takes place?
We have to get used to the reality that the police cannot be
everywhere. Fighting crime is a shared responsibility between the
police and the community. From the setting up of anti-crime clubs in
schools to neighbourhood watch, we need to learn to protect ourselves.
But more importantly, our police must have the financial resources and
backing from the Government to equip themselves to fight crime.
The presence of policemen in key areas is important as a deterrent.
Talk is cheap, it is time we see more real commitment, not excuses.