By Ili Aqilah and Tan Mei Kuan
Photos by Luqman Hakim
You probably have heard of petty thefts involving your loved ones or, perhaps, experienced them firsthand. This form of crimes include break-in (house and car), snatch theft, robbery, shoplifting and related misdemeanours. Does “Home Sweet Home” ring true in your neighbourhood?
Ipoh Echo endeavours to find the causes and solutions. Hopefully, they will benefit readers, both in the short and long terms.
How Safe is Your Neighbourhood?
Insights from Victims
Ipoh Echo spoke to five longtime residents from neighbourhoods plagued with a string of thefts around Ipoh. They share with us their harrowing ordeals as victims. They are being identified by alphabets to ensure their privacy.
A is a senior citizen who has been living in Ipoh Garden South for over 30 years. “One afternoon, I was walking home after buying groceries from a nearby shop. At the junction, a young motorcyclist suddenly approached me and asked for my identity card. Noticing that he wasn’t in police uniform, I was on my guard. When I refused, he tried to snatch my wallet and threw a punch at my face. Luckily, I had my umbrella to defend myself. The culprit fled,” A recalled. “My neighbour, down the road, became a victim of snatch theft when she walked home from the salon nearby,” she added.
B has been a resident of Ipoh Garden since 1969. It all happened a year ago when she drove home one evening after work. “I got down from the car to unlock my house gate. Suddenly, two guys came up on a motorcycle. I wasn’t aware as my back was towards them. They opened the passenger door of my idling car and took my handbag. I lost my mobile phone, wallet, credit cards, camera and other personal belongings,” B explained. She made a police report soon after and cancelled one credit card purchase made by the culprits after the incident.
“There was a failed attempt to snatch my handbag outside the Ipoh Garden post office once. Using a motorcycle with a covered license plate, two thieves were tailing my bicycle then. My neighbour down the road had her bag snatched twice when she walked home from church. There have been house break-ins here too. People have to be vigilant always, especially when they are out of their houses. For example, walk facing the oncoming traffic, it helps,” B highlighted. According to her, her car battery was stolen twice when she parked at the area around Woolley food court and the field at Greentown. It happened two weeks apart!
C, a resident of Ipoh Garden East for 15 years, shared, “In 2014, I was going out to work on a Saturday afternoon. While I was reversing my car, the road was clear. As I was locking my house gate, two young boys on a motorcycle appeared round the corner. Clad in bright clothes, jeans and sneakers, they opened my front passenger door, took my handbag and escaped immediately. I lost my office keys, personal pen drives, company phone and cash. I did make a police report but the police couldn’t do much, as I couldn’t provide them the registration number.
“I was not the only one, as my immediate neighbour also experienced a similar incident just months later. Her handbag was snatched from her at the gate,” she recalled. Post-incident, C had her manual gate changed to an automated one. “We do have security personnel going around but not on a daily basis. Home is supposed to be our safe and comfort zone thus a residential area should be made safe by the authorities,” she opined.
D is a 27-year-old avid jogger who used to jog at Polo Ground. “I was preparing for an upcoming competition, hence I started jogging at Polo Ground. I like the park because it has a longer jogging track compared to others,” she said. In May, her belongings, placed in the boot, went missing from her parked car around 6pm.
“I lost a laptop, camera, iPod shuffle, hard disk and personal belongings such as wallet, cash, identity card and driving licence. Even my clothes and make-up set were taken. It’s heart-breaking, as my hard disk and camera contained photos of my family, places I’ve been and some of my best work for the past two and a half years. They’re all gone now,” she lamented. Similar incidents had happened to her friends too.
“I’m still being haunted by the episode. I don’t think I’ll ever jog at Polo Ground again, unless the city council or the police improve the safety measures at the park. Despite the park being a popular spot with Ipohites, the police beat at the park is seldom manned and the CCTV cameras are non-functional,” she bemoaned.
Ipoh Echo also talked to E who resides in the area of Greentown for over 30 years. “Break-ins are common here, especially at abandoned houses. Drug addicts will climb over the wall to steal metal to sell. Our home was broken into when I was a child. Three years ago, the thieves just walked, nonchalantly, into the compound of the adjacent house, having mistaken my neighbour, who was watering plants, as a gardener. The culprits fled on a motorcycle when the owner shouted at them,” she recounted.
“Most of us here install alarm system with CCTV or keep dogs. The police used to patrol the area at night but had ceased the past two years. On the other hand, the Maybank corner at the Greentown Business Centre is a hotspot for snatch theft,” E pointed out. She hopes the police patrols will resume.
Her car battery was stolen some time ago when she stopped by the Woolley food court.
How to avoid?
During an interview with Mayor Dato’ Zamri Man, he assured us that the city is relatively safe, adding that the police are doing their part in maintaining law and order in Ipoh.
“Rest assured that Ipoh is one of the safest cities in Malaysia. The police have done their best. Take Bulatan Amanjaya for example. We’ve put lights and there are guards around the perimeter,” added Zamri.
Despite such assurances, we believe that precautionary steps must be taken by everyone. And it begins with you. So what can you do?
Keep your belongings with you at all times
Be it a short visit to the store or a quick jogging session at the park, keep your personal belongings with you all the time. Never leave them unattended or in the car. The same applies for your phones, laptops, cameras and other precious items.
Get a backpack and fill all your items in it or leave all items of value at home. There have been instances where victims tried to hide their valuables in their car boot or under their car seats but they were stolen anyway. So, either you keep the items with you everywhere you go or leave them somewhere safe. Your car is definitely not the place.
Avoid carrying too many valuable items in public
The lesser the better. When going out, limit your items and leave the rest at home. For example, when going to the park, bring what is only necessary – your identification card, driving licence and some loose change for emergency. If you are wearing expensive accessories, leave or hide them. This will reduce the chances of you getting robbed or mugged.
Stay away from potentially dangerous areas
Although there are known crime-prone areas, many Ipohites believe that Ipoh is a safe place to roam.
“My only means of getting around is my two-wheeler. I’ve no problem riding around the city, even along dark and quiet alleys. It’s never occurred to me that I’ll get robbed by anyone,” said Ahmad Nazmi Mansor, 28, who lives in Batu Gajah. He commutes daily to Ipoh to work. However, Nazmi feels unsafe if he were to walk along narrow alleys.
“This applies to both men and women. I think it’s not safe to walk alone along quiet lanes because we never know what to expect. Instead of taking short cuts, I think it’s safer to use roads where people can see you. Ipoh is safe, but we’ve to exercise caution, as well,” warned Nazmi.
What do you need to do?
When being mugged or robbed, what must you do first?
Scream for help
If someone snatches your bag or valuable items, scream for help or shout loudly to attract the attention of passers-by. Never try to chase the culprits alone because they might harm you.
Lodge a police report
When your personal belongings are stolen, head to the nearest police station to lodge a report. This is the most important thing to do because the report will come in handy, especially when your identification card, driving licence or bank cards go missing.
According to D, the victim we interviewed, the report saved her valuable time when explaining her loss to the Registration Department of Malaysia.
“The day after I was robbed, I went to the registration department at UTC Ipoh. After showing them the police report, I was exempted from paying the mandatory fine for applying a new ID card,” said D.
Better safe than sorry
Being nominated as the sixth must-visit destination in Asia by Lonely Planet and listed as the city with the highest domestic visitors for three consecutive years, safety is one factor we should never take lightly. The authorities must work hand-in-hand with the public to create a safe haven for both tourists and locals alike.
A lot depends on what is done and being done, as perception can make or break Ipoh’s reputation as dominant player in the tourism industry.