On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Now, we cannot even eat in peace

Crime is an issue that unites the people, but for the wrong reasons. One thing is clear – we are sick and tired of living in fear.

IF you live in Petaling Jaya, you would probably have heard of it. Three armed men rushed into a famous chilli crab restaurant shortly after closing time – and they were not looking for food.

They held up the cashier in this cash-only restaurant and cleaned out the till while the restaurant helpers ran helter-skelter, for fear of being slashed by the parang-wielding robbers. An accomplice was waiting inside a car nearby. Luckily, there were no customers at the usually packed restaurant.

Not too long ago, the restaurant opposite, famous for its fish head curry, had also fallen victim to such criminals.

What is frightening and most unfortunate is that this is one part of Petaling Jaya that is busy and vibrant, even after midnight. It is a hive of activity because the food court and several outlets nearby are open 24 hours.

Word has gone around Petaling Jaya that it is no longer safe for the people to patronise eateries during late hours.

In fact, at least one restaurant operating in Section 17 has taken the unusual step of locking its doors even when it is open for business. Only customers who have made reservations or those who can prove they are bona fide customers are allowed in.

It’s the same with many hair salons, which have taken to locking their doors as they are often the target of such hoodlums.

In Cheras, it was reported that people eating on the pavement outside a restaurant were also robbed. For many of us, crime has worsened.

This newspaper reported on June 13 that a group of armed robbers had been terrorising customers of seafood and mamak restaurants in Kuala Lumpur, hitting five eateries in Cheras, Jinjang and Brickfields since January.

The group of at least 10 parang-wielding men would use stolen cars, conceal their faces with crash helmets and target the restaurants to rob customers of their money and valua­bles.

The police, according to the report, claimed to have made a breakthrough in the case following the arrest of three men, in their 20s, who had attempted to strike at their sixth target, a seafood restaurant in Kampung Subang.

The point is this – why must Malaysians continue to live in fear? To be more precise, it seems that Malaysians cannot even eat in peace now!

The promises and assurances made at the many anti-crime campaigns will not be taken seriously until the people feel safe. Forget about the statistics that tell us that snatch theft incidents have actually gone down.

Don’t think that our Cabinet members and police chiefs do not know about the actual situation. I know for a fact that the family members of several Cabinet members have been robbed. So have the children and relatives of our top police officers.

I hope the Prime Minister would issue an order for the Cabinet and police top brass to watch the most recent robbery cases captured on CCTV that have been uploaded on YouTube and shared on Facebook.

Many of these robberies, which take place in broad daylight, happen right in front of the homes of Malaysians. The most vulnerable victims are women who, upon alighting from their cars, have their bags snatched by the robbers on motorcycles. In some cases, the victims are dragged along the road when they resist.

Video clips of such incidents are shocking and guaranteed to make our blood boil. The fact that cameras are being installed in so many homes now is testimony to the fact that many of us don’t feel safe even in our home surroundings.

Crime is our number one concern, according to a survey by the International Islamic Uni­versity, and that certainly is not news to us.

The Dewan Rakyat begins its meeting proper on Tuesday after the oath-taking ceremony on Monday. I hope that our Members of Parliament would find time to deliberate on this issue. We are not interested in them scoring points, but to propose concrete solutions, especially with regard to legislation.

There is this strong perception that following the repeal of the Emergency Ordinance, the hardcore criminals, including former detainees, have been emboldened to return to the streets. Talk to the police officers and many are angry that they have lost their power to rein in these devious criminals.

No doubt, there have been allegations of abuse of power by the police in the past, which was one reason why this piece of legislation was repealed. But now we learn of many cases of robberies involving ex-detainees who probably no longer fear being detained or banished.

The harsh reality is that the police do not expect hardcore criminals to volunteer information or confess to their crimes when arrested. It is difficult to build up a case under such circumstances but human rights lawyers expect the police to try harder instead of using the EO to close their files.

But the pressure is piling up on the government, not just the police, because we want our authorities to clean up our streets.

We are sick and tired of living in fear. We have elected our politicians into the highest legislative chamber and now we expect them, as law-makers, to do their job well. So please get on with it.