DAP calls on
the Police to announce immediate, urgent and concrete plans at every
district level to improve police visibility and accessibility to combat the
double rise in crime rate and fear of crime, starting with an effective
strategy to identify and stamp out the “black areas” of snatch theft crime
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Sunday): The two snatch thefts, one before and the other during yesterday’s anti-snatch theft protest rally by the residents of Taman Molek, Johore Bahru over the snatch-theft murder of Chong See Cheng, 37, Nanyang Siang Pau clerk last week, is a vivid reminder to all concerned – the police authorities and the citizenry – that there is no time for just public relations exercise or complacency about sntach theft crime as it has become too rampant and ubiquitious as well as too traumatic for its victims.
I find it troubling that at a time when there is a need to mobilize greater public support to stand up against the double rise in the crime rate and the fear of crime to restore to Malaysians their fundamental right to be free from crime and the fear of crime, there seems to be contrarian attempts by some quarters to down-play the gravity of the crime situation in the country.
Firstly, there is the selective play with crime statistics with some police officials claiming that there is a drop in the crime rate as compared to the previous years, citing as evidence the drop in the police reports on snatch thefts in some states and district.
In the first five months of this year, for instance, there has been a 15% drop in snatch-theft police reports in Johore Bahru, one of the crime capitals in the country – 504 police reports on snatch thefts from January to May this year as compared to 592 police reports for the same period last year. (Nanyang Siang Pau 18.5.04)
But can a 15% drop in snatch-theft police reports be equated with a 15% drop in the actual incidence of snatch theft crime? Definitely not, as even top police officers admit that the overwhelming majority of snatch thefts are either not reported at all or reported differently as “items lost” to avoid all the unnecessary hassle and inconvenience both to the police and the victims when the culprits or articles concerned are not to be located or recovered.
I find the warning by the Deputy Information Minister Datuk Donald Lim Siang Chai to the media not to go overboard in reporting snatch thefts to avoid frightening society and tourists most crude and unbelievable.
Firstly, how could society be frightened by truthful reports about snatch thefts when Malaysians had been living in increasing fear of crime – except for VVIPs like Ministers and Deputy Ministers such as Donald Lim, for whom a special squad of 1,000 police is being formed to give them even better protection at the expense of the ordinary citizen? Such reports may have the salutary effect of saving potential victims by making them more aware and vigilant of their safety.
Secondly, the claim that truthful reporting about the actual problem of snatch-thefts will frighten away tourists is a most short-sighted and self-defeating argument , as if tourists in the era of instant information could be easily deceived in believing that they could be assured of personal safety in the streets and public places in Malaysia provided the media “black out” or play down the stories of crime in the country.
The best and most effective way to promote tourism is to win international confidence by admitting that Malaysia has a problem with crime, in particular snatch thefts which also prey on tourists, and demonstrate to the nation and the world of the will and success of the Malaysian authorities to stamp out crime, including snatch thiefs, and to restore personal safety and community security in the country!
The highest police authorities must be commended for a dawning appreciation that the denial syndrome about the gravity of crime, in particular snatch-theft crime which had claimed one life a month in the past two months, must end, as illustrated by a police circular to all chief police officers which reads:“A crime that was considered a petty crime has now resulted in several people losing their lives, other suffering serious injuries and other victims being traumatized for life.” (New Sunday Times 20.6.04)
DAP calls on the Police to announce immediate, urgent and concrete plans at every district level to improve police visibility and accessibility to combat the double rise in crime rate and fear of crime, starting with an effective strategy to identify and stamp out the “black areas” of snatch theft crime.
The authorities should also be wary of “short-cuts” and “quick-fixes” like the installation of closed-circuit television (CCTVs) cameras in snatch-theft prone areas, as if this could itself bring down the crime rate, when there can be no substitute for increased police visibility and accessibility to restore to Malaysians the two lost freedoms of being free from crime and the fear of crime.
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader,
Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor & DAP National Chairman