Are Our Cities Dangerous?

By Fathol Zaman Bukhari

I am somewhat amused by a recent report by Numbeo.com titled, “The Most Dangerous Cities in Asia.” Numbeo is a collaborative online database which enables users to share and compare information about food, health care, crime and other related statistics between countries and cities of the world.

Founded in 2009, the Numbeo website is operated by Numbeo doo, a company registered in Serbia. Its founder, Mladen Adamovic is a former Google software engineer. It was originally a website for crowd-sourced price comparison but in 2011 it expanded to include data on crime, pollution, healthcare and traffic.

Numbeo claims to be the biggest website of its kind with more than 1.3 million pieces of data collected in August 2014. It is a good site for comparing everyday prices of goods but its reliability is suspect, as the information garnered is based upon what people say. And the information, being hearsay, should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Notwithstanding that, what is highlighted in the report does not augur well for Malaysians, as we are placed in the spotlight.

In its listing, four out of the ten most dangerous cities in Asia are in Malaysia. They are Johore Baharu at No. 10, Klang at No. 5, Petaling Jaya at No. 3 and our capital city, Kuala Lumpur at No. 2. Fortunately, there is no mention of Ipoh. Is this a deliberate omission? Or perhaps there are no inputs from Ipohites to the website?  If inputs are absent there is no way Numbeo can make a conclusion. Thus Ipoh is spared the ignominy – for the moment at least.

Incidentally, the most dangerous city in Asia, based on the report, is Karachi in Pakistan. Let us see what are the common criminal activities witnessed in all four “criminalised” cities in the country. On top of the list is pick-pocketing followed by snatch theft, then robbery and finally rape and murder. The last two are violent crimes that occur mainly in Johore Baharu, Klang and Kuala Lumpur.

Pickpockets and scam artists flood the streets of Kuala Lumpur seizing every opportunity to steal from locals and foreigners alike. Foreign tourists, especially the unsuspecting ones, are the prime targets. Taxi drivers fleecing tourists is another menace that is difficult to eradicate. The introduction of the American multinational online transportation network Uber and Grabcar is definitely a welcome change on the public transportation scenario. Ironically, it is the taxi drivers’ turn to complain. They are now demanding that the government ban or regulate the system.

Efforts at making Ipoh a liveable city are ongoing. Driven by a passion to see things move in tandem with the city’s physical growth, Mayor Dato’ Zamri Man has taken it upon himself to make things work. Complementing this noble cause is Ipoh City Watch.

A liveable city incorporates the elements of safety, security, serenity and beauty. Perception too plays a part in determining liveability. Criminal activities, in Ipoh, are not as widespread as in the four mentioned cities. Pickpocket, snatch theft, robbery and the occasional rape and murder do occur but their numbers are small, comparatively.

One petty crime which is considered contagious is the jaga kereta (guard your car) menace. This occurs primarily in areas where Ipohites congregate. The wet market at city centre is a favourite haunt of these unsavoury characters. Most are drug addicts whose illicit act is a means to get a fix. Punitive actions by the authorities are never sufficient to deter the culprits from making a comeback.

Robberies with dangerous weapons do happen and the favourite targets are goldsmith shops and restaurants in downtown Ipoh. Another soft target is foreign workers. Many have been robbed, conned and mugged. The Ipoh District Police under ACP Sum Chang Keong are doing their utmost to prevent these crimes from happening. But their hands are pretty tied as their number is small vis-à-vis the city’s expanding population.  No matter what it is, our responsibility is to make sure Ipoh does not become city No. 5 on the Numbeo.com list.

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