On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Make our homes and streets safe again

Talk of a famous fish head curry restaurant being robbed has sparked off a chain reaction with many eateries now taking a more cautious approach.

For good measure, there are enough video clips, recorded from CCTVs and posted on YouTube, to show the number of 24-hour mamak shops that have been hit by parang-wielding robbers.

In many parts of Petaling Jaya, many hair salons have long adopted the same security measures to prevent criminals from entering their premises.

Yes, we have come to that level of insecurity in our daily life. I am not sure whether our leaders are aware of the extent of the fears among our people. They need to listen hard to the ground and not just rely on crime statistics. There is no need to be defensive about how reliable the statistics are or whether perception has got the better of us.

For a start, they should listen to their own staff or even their relatives who do not go about their daily lives in the same security-enhanced environment as them. Ordinary workers who go shopping for daily provisions or withdraw money from the ATM have become more conscious of their personal safety.

Our leaders should stop worrying about bad news and its messengers, in this case the media, and instead work on making our homes safe again.

As a newspaper editor, I have found crime to be the biggest topic of conversation at any dinner function. People want the press to report crime, not downplay such incidents merely to make the leaders look good.

What the police and media would regard as minor crimes, such as snatch thefts, burglaries and home robberies, are in fact the biggest worries for the people.

Due to space constraint, the media tend to highlight the more serious crimes, or cases where important personalities are involved. As a result, there is a strong perception that we have forgotten or, worse, covered up the petty crime cases affecting ordinary people. That seems to be the sentiment in postings on Facebook, unfortunately.

The people are fed up of the daily political one-upmanship and mudslinging. If only these politicians could spend as much time focusing on the real issues of the day – crime, cost of living and transportation.

It is commendable that the Prime Minister has placed fighting crime as one of his main areas of transformation. As Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said, all the economic changes would be meaningless if people do not feel safe.

Fighting crime is one of the national key result areas (NKRA) and the Home Ministry has just announced the second wave of the strategy, where the “feel safe” factor would be propped up and more resources would be given to the police.

Recently, the police installed 19,000 CCTV cameras in southern Johor under its PDRM SafeCam programme. It’s a good start but the police must be aware that this is only a drop in the ocean. Millions of CCTV cameras should be put up in major cities such as Kuala Lumpur.

In an interview with The Star last week, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein Onn was asked whether the spate of violent crimes recently was the result of the abolition of preventive laws.

His reply was that since the abolition of the Internal Security Act and Emergency Ordinance in September last year, 1,476 detainees have been released. Additionally, 1,119 persons under the restricted residence order have been allowed to return to their respective home states.

This may be good news to human rights activists but ordinary Malaysians are wondering if these former detainees could be responsible for the spate of violent crimes.

The perception now, based on anecdotal evidence, is that most crimes are committed by locals rather than foreigners.

It is good to hear Hishammuddin acknowledging that the ministry recognised the possibility of these ex-detainees returning to their life of crime. Proactive measures have been put in place by the relevant agencies, including monitoring this group of ex-detainees.

Likewise, while there are calls to abolish the death penalty with many questioning the effectiveness of such punishment, there are also many who are wary of the government taking away what they consider to be another preventive measure.

The government, many of us hope, will not be too quick to remove these layers of deterrents merely to accommodate the demands of human rights activists. Reforms are good but not at the expense of the wider interest of the community.

The police deserve our total support in terms of human resources, equipment and financial backing to ensure they do their jobs effectively. But the reality is that the police cannot fight hardened criminals with kid gloves. Whose side are we on anyway?