On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

A state of desperation

The community is outraged because they have long suffered from a state of seeming lawlessness in the country’s southern gateway. 

To the Johoreans, it appears that the police have finally made their presence felt because of pressure from the public and media following the spate of violent crimes in the city. 

It is good that the politicians, perhaps realising that their positions could be affected with the general election looming, have come out to highlight the crime problems in the state. 

In the past, certain politicians blamed the press for highlighting crime reports, giving lame excuses that it would scare away investors and tourists.  

It is silly to assume that the crime problem would go away if we simply sweep it under the carpet because if criminals are not put behind bars, they would just become bolder.  

Whether this denial comes from politicians or the police, the point is the police should spend their time going after criminals instead of treating the media as scapegoats. They shouldn’t use this as an excuse to hide their inadequacies. 

The sentiment on the ground is that the police in Johor have ignored complaints, even pleas, to check crime for too long and the series of horrendous crimes recently was the last straw. 

The huge turnout at the Johor Baru Tionghua Federation headquarters to sign a petition calling for a safer Johor and the demonstration outside the Mentri Besar’s residence were unprecedented. 

Last week, the police announced that the police would make themselves visible to keep crime down with more than 300 policemen to take over the policing of crime-prone areas in the district. 

A total of 160 General Operations Force (GOF) personnel will join the 150 men from the Federal Reserve Unit who have already started their tour of duty in the city.  

It was reported that the GOF men would go on crime-prevention rounds in teams of three armed with submachine guns and help man roadblocks. 

Without doubt, the show of force would go a long way to instil public confidence and, even if it is a short-term measure, it would be greatly appreciated by the people. 

Long-term measures have already been taken with the state recruiting at least 2,000 more policemen from the RM330mil committed to fight crime in the state. 

What has happened in Johor should be a lesson to the police because other cities such as Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya, Georgetown and Ipoh have similar, although less rampant, problems.  

At a recent meeting between my colleagues and a senior ambassador, the latter expressed his concern at the crime rate, saying his sentiment was shared by his fellow diplomats. 

Earlier this year, I met a businessman in Hong Kong over dinner and one topic that cropped out during our conversation was crime and corruption in Malaysia. 

These are issues that we feel ashamed of when we hear them from foreigners but in our heart of hearts, we know that they are right because we, too, share the same concerns. 

There is little need to be defensive by arguing that some cities in the United States or Europe have greater notoriety because little would be achieved from such mindless point-scoring. Let’s just worry about our own backyard first. 

Malaysians, especially in major towns, now prefer to stay in gated properties and condominiums because they feel safer while those in housing estates have pooled their money to hire guards. Some have even put up illegal barricades, especially those in Petaling Jaya, in their desperation to keep criminals away. 

In Klang, some traditional grocers have installed grilles in their kedai runcit, preferring not to have open contact with their customers. Sadly, we have come to that.  

So, if anyone – whether politicians or the police – want to tell us we are exaggerating, not many of us would be in the mood to be politically correct. 

You know something is wrong when even senior or retired policemen are robbed in their homes. The late Datuk Albert Mah, who spent his life fighting crime in Penang, died at the hands of criminals. 

We know the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Musa Hassan, is a dedicated policeman. More importantly, he is a clean cop.  

But he alone cannot fight crime. Musa needs the support of all his men and those who refuse to back him, or even attempt to stall his efforts, should not be in the force. 

As much as we criticise the force, especially those serving in Johor Baru, we have to work closely with them to fight the common enemies – the thieves, robbers, drug pushers, rapists, gangsters and other criminal elements. 

We must also realise that while we want foreigners as cheap labour, we are also paying the price for the large number of foreigners in Malaysia, who do contribute to crime.  

While we beef up police presence in the streets, let’s not forget the coastal areas and the exit points – if committing a crime is easy in JB, getting out of the city and escaping the law are equally easy.