Crime in Ipoh – the perception and the reality

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Thinking Allowed

By Mariam Mokhtar

Crime in IpohAt the last monthly parade held at the police headquarters in Ipoh, the Chief Police Officer (CPO), Mohd Shukri Dahlan claimed that criminals were getting younger (Ipoh Echo July 1) and that 53.1 per cent, or 1681 of the 3166 cases reported between January and May 2013, had been solved.

This writer asked various Ipohites for their views on the remarks made by the Perak CPO. The contributors declined to be named, but one common theme emerged; people are worried about their safety, with their fears being heightened by the reports of criminal activities which appear in the national newspapers, on a daily basis.

Recently, we have been alarmed by news of crimes perpetrated by secret-societies, shootings, abductions, attacks on old people and the theft of drain covers which compromises people’s safety.

We are also disappointed that making a police report is just as stressful as the crime itself.

Mohd Shukri said that the snatch-thieves and drug traffickers were getting younger and were mostly teenagers or young adults. He urged both parents and members of the community to play their role in preventing these sorts of crimes.

What was the study that was conducted and what was the average age of the criminals then? What is the average age of the perpetrators now? Why are they getting younger?

The CPO described the various strategies adopted by the police to reduce the crime rate and said that they were designed to enable the rakyat to live safely. He mentioned programmes such as the Police Omnipresence Programme (POP) which included “High Profile Policing” (HPP), “Walk, Stop and Talk” (WST) and “Feet on the Street” (FOS).

Although the CPO was right to engage the help of parents and the community to help reduce crime, he is probably aware of the limitations placed on the public. He claimed that 53.1 per cent of cases had been solved, but this writer would like to know how this percentage, or crime index, was calculated. A more thorough breakdown of the statistics is needed.

Of the 3166 cases reported, what percentage could be categorised as violent or serious crime? Of the 1681 crimes which were solved, how many were from this category of ‘violent crime’? How many of the solved crimes were minor offences like littering or parking issues?

How many out of the 3,166 cases involved firearms, machetes or parangs? How many cases were classified as murder, rape, assault, sexual crimes or violence against women, children or the elderly? How many were domestic violence crimes? How many involved anti-social behaviour? How many were drug offences?

Did this total figure include cases such as littering, pick-pocketing or shoplifting? How many cases were of fraud or cheating? Did it include minor traffic offenses like double parking, going through a red light, driving without a seat belt, obstruction, overtaking on a double white line, failure to pay parking fines, driving a vehicle which is unroadworthy, or driving without a licence or insurance? How many of these cases were break-ins and of these, how many were on commercial premises or residential homes? Was anyone injured or killed?

It would be interesting for Ipohites to know the percentage of crimes which were solved with the help of the public. How successful was the public in assisting the police? Did they phone the confidential phone lines or was there enough media publicity for witnesses to come forward willingly?

Mohd Shukri may have mentioned the POP strategy, but many people are clueless as to what terms like HPP, WST and FOS actually mean. In which areas are these programmes available and how could they contribute to a reduction in crime? If there is no publicity about these plans, perhaps the police could do more to highlight them. Does POP involve routine checks on drivers to check for valid driving licences, or stop-searches on young men for weapons such as parangs?

Could the CPO say if CCTV played any role in the fight against crime and how much of the footage from CCTV was effective in solving crime?

Of the crimes committed, how many were done by repeat offenders? Is there a plan to rehabilitate former criminals and drug users, to integrate into society and are these successful? Are there seasonal trends for specific crimes? Is there racial profiling for certain crimes? With the economic downturn, has crime increased and if so, by how much?

There is a rise of gang culture in our schools and many teachers and parents are keen for the police and the various government departments to reach out to our youth. Are there adequate sporting facilities in schools and housing estates?

The reality of crime which the public has experienced differs from what the authorities would like us to believe. If public confidence is to be restored, there has to be more transparency and increased cooperation between the police, the community leaders and the public.

The Malaysian public is sometimes its own worst enemy. They want major improvements with minimal effort. If the police are to do their job properly and efficiently, the rakyat must engage with the police. The police have the manpower and the resources, but they and the criminal justice agencies, need to listen to the voice of the rakyat.

Not everyone can afford to live in a gated community and pay security guards to do the job of the police to protect their property and families. Moreover, if the police do not enforce the laws, people may form vigilante groups and this may soon lead to anarchy.