Our recent front page report “Reduced Crime Rate – Reality or Perception?” has revealed some disturbing facts about the attitude of the residents towards the police force in the city.
Firstly, the residents refused to accept the claim by the police that the crime rate in the city had been reduced. They dismiss the claim as “mere statistics”. On the contrary, they said, there has been a spate of street robberies, snatch-thefts and house break-ins, resulting in the womenfolk in housing estates being afraid to come out of their gates.
However, the city police chief Assistant Commissioner Azisman Alias stressed that there was no manipulation of figures; they were based on the reports lodged at police stations. “If, no report was made then it would not be taken into account,” he said.
Taking both views into account, I can only come to a conclusion that many of the crimes committed in the city were not reported. This was even admitted by many victims of petty crimes.
Why is this so? Have residents lost their confidence in the police force to the extent of not reporting any occurrence of crimes? I hope not.
The police force is a necessity in a civil society as it is the guardian of law and order. Without it, we will be subjected to the ‘law of the jungle’.
Therefore, despite some incidents in the past few years that had tarnished the image of the police force, we need to give them our full confidence. Let us not allow a few bad apples in the police force to spoil the relationship between the public and the police.
In general it is fair to say that most police personnel are dedicated to their responsibilities, as they too have family members and relatives who need the police to safeguard them.
But recent interviews with residents have shown that some had refused to lodge crime reports, while others are reluctant to pass on information. Their excuses are the waste of time as they need to take leave from work and go through the hassles to lodge a report, or as in the case of passing on information, there is fear of confidentiality leakage.
“I telephoned the police one night when there was a group of youths at the play-ground drinking alcohol and making a nuisance of themselves,” said a resident in Silibin. “After much persuasion, a police patrol car finally came. Peeping from my window, I noticed that the two policemen, instead of directing the youths to disperse, behaved like old friends. After the patrol car left, the youths continued with their activities. Luckily, I did not give my name when I rang the police. Had I done so, the youths would very probably know who had reported,” he added.
Our report has also drawn various adverse comments of the police from residents. Among their allegations are the lack of police mobile and foot patrols and failure to take prompt crime preventive actions.
This shows that there is a serious need for the police to win the “hearts and minds” of the residents to intensify efforts against criminals. Police need help from the public to provide them information, and based on the information the police can increase surveillance on crime prone areas.
Therefore, the launching of the Convoy Community Oriented Policing (CCOP) programme by the city police is very commendable. Under this programme the police would meet the public over breakfast for a chat with the objective to break the barriers between police officers and the public. The meetings are held regularly in various housing estates.
Apart from this, the city police chief had directed his men to step up the SWAT (Stop Walk and Talk) programme, whereby policemen would chat with the people and discuss their problems.
Azisman had also directed the frontline’s personnel in the police stations to be courteous to the public and attend to their needs fast. The public must not be made to wait to see a staff or make a police report. While those in the patrol cars are to be sensitive to the needs of the people and situation.
The CCOP is similar to the Salleh System, which was named after the Inspector-General of Police, the late Tun Salleh Ismail, introduced to all police contingents in 1968.
The main purpose of this system was to train police officers to be more responsible and acceptable by the public as a partner in combating crime. However, like all good moves, the Salleh System was gradually forgotten.
Let us hope that CCOP can sustain and help to rebuild the rapport between the public and police, so that neighbourhood watches would emerge all over the city to reduce crime and safeguard the security of the residents.