ON THE BEAT
By WONG CHUN WAI
HOME Ministry secretary-general Datuk Mahmood Adam is used to getting tele
phone calls or text messages from his boss, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein, between 1am and 3am.
This is the time when the Home Minister begins poring through the many documents and reports. They range from documents that require his signature for permanent residence applications to reports about detainees and prisoners.
From 6am onwards, Mahmood begins receiving calls from his civil service boss, the Chief Secretary Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan.
Mahmood, 56, the former Immigration Department director-general, is getting used to the pace of changes at Putrajaya.
This writer sent an SMS to Hishammuddin at around 1.45am one day to verify what Mahmood had claimed. Hishammuddin replied within 10 minutes.
The minister is tackling his task with much urgency. He understands the sentiments on the ground, particularly the frustrations of the ordinary people with increasing street crimes.
Crime featured prominently during the last general election. The inability of the police to fight crime effectively caused crucial votes to be lost to the opposition.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Hishammuddin understand the political stakes and are determined not to let this happen again.
Hishammuddin has reasons to be working overtime – Najib has set him a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) target.
He has to reduce street crime, especially snatch thefts and unarmed robbery, by 20% by the end of next year.
Street crime made up 17% of the overall crime index last year, with 72% of such cases happening in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Penang and Johor. But we can be sure that the number is higher, as many cases are not reported.
The plate is full for Hishammuddin. The police force has 90,000 personnel but only about 20,000 are on the ground fighting crime in a country of 27 million people.
More than 30% of the police personnel’s time is spent on administrative and clerical work, which only hamper their performance.
The police plan to take in another 60,000 to increase the number to 150,000 but this won’t happen overnight as rookies need to be trained. At present, an average of 6,000 trainees graduate from the five police academies each year.
Obviously, Hishammuddin cannot wait. The short-term plan would be to rope in members of Rela, the civil volunteer group, to assist the police in anti-crime operations.
Rela members have been restricted to crowd control and assisting the authorities in anti-illegal immigrant operations but the abuse of power among some black sheep has tarnished its image.
Lack of discipline and poor physical appearances have also contributed to tarnishing Rela’s image. I have seen personnel with unkempt hair and even young men with coloured hair at certain functions.
But the Home Minister has assured that only the best will be picked. Certainly, here is a chance for Rela to put on a new image and show that voluntary organisations should play their role in fighting crime.
The presence of uniformed personnel on the streets has proven to deter crime. It also provides a sense of security among the people. In Singapore, you can see many armed police officers along Orchard Road but that doesn’t seem to be the case for Malaysia in areas like Bukit Bintang.
It is commendable that Hishammuddin has ordered more CCTVs to be installed in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Penang and Johor.
But this should not just be the work of the police force. The various state councils should install more CCTVs, especially in Selangor.
The Sultan of Selangor has long expressed his displeasure at the snail’s pace of the state government in this area.
In an interview with Tuanku last year, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah used strong language to express his frustration and unhappiness at the delay, saying he was fed up with the excuses given. After all, Selangor has the highest crime rate.
Nothing should be spared in the fight against crime. Putting up more CCTVs, as in the United Kingdom where millions of cameras have been installed, has proven to be effective in preventing crime. In 2005, images of the suicide bombers in London were captured because of such CCTVs.
The Government should also consider setting up community police units similar to the volunteer police force to assist them, like the Armed Forces’ Reserve Officer Units (Rotu). These units should be set up in our colleges and universities by the police.
As we step up the fight against crime, let us not forget to help the police force by giving better allowances and perks. Poor working and financial conditions lead to corruption.
Police officers who put their lives on the line for our safety deserve better. If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.
But fighting crime isn’t just the job of the police alone. Preventing crime from happening would help to reduce the number of cases.
Let’s help Hishammuddin achieve his target.