By Mariam Mokhtar

When one retiree and her daughter, both living near Ipoh's Jalan Kampar, was asked what worried them most, both of them said the rising cost of living, and rising levels of violent and serious crime.

The mother said, "My pension does not stretch far enough. I don't go to supermarkets. I shop at the pasar, but the prices have shot up. The little pile of vegetables used to be RM1. Now, they are RM2.

"My pension has not doubled. I do not drive and depend on public transport or taxis. Fortunately, the taxi driver is someone whom I have known, for many years. When my husband died, we sold our car. If not for the taxi driver, I would almost be house-bound. I am afraid of walking to the bus stop because of friends' experiences of bag and gold chain snatching."

Her daughter, who works within walking distance of her house said, "I do not know if violent crime in on the increase or there is better reporting. You need only pick up a paper to read about a fatal stabbing or gun crime. Today, I read about the shoot-out, in Tambun. What is happening? Have the police got a hold on the situation?"

The women were worried about violent crime, which involves stabbings and shootings. In early January this year, a man wearing a mask, discharged his gun into the ceiling of a seafood restaurant, in Medan Ipoh, then left as abruptly as he had arrived. What did the police investigation discover?

Three days later, police shot dead one member of the notorious "Mamak Gang" and two of its members were detained. The incident happened at the Changkat Jering Toll Plaza. The men, who had criminal convictions, were in a Volkswagen Passat. The police found RM2400, in the VW, as well as vehicle number plates, parangs and caps with police emblems.

The Mamak Gang has been involved in robberies, break-ins and the theft of luxury cars throughout Malaysia.

In March, three suspected criminals were shot dead, in Simee, after a 5km chase from Bercham.

In a press conference in April, the police reported that two firearms had been recovered – a Smith and Wesson revolver and a semi-automatic pistol. In addition, they found three .38 bullets, three .38 spent shells, .9mm bullets, three parangs, three ski masks, two pairs of gloves and five handphones.

With the deaths of the three men, police believed that they had solved 15 crimes in Ipoh and Sungei Siput, that had occurred since the end of 2015.

A month later, the head of the "Rem Sawit Gang" was shot dead on the Ipoh-Lahad Highway, near Taman Lahad Indah.

Following the death of the suspect, raids were conducted at two locations, in Ipoh and Batu Gajah, in the early hours of the morning, and two young men were arrested. The men, including the dead suspect had criminal records for various crimes involving drugs, murder and robbery.

During a press conference, after the latest (at the time of writing) shoot-out in Tambun, in which four members of the "Don Tiger" were killed, it was revealed that the police were on the trail of the remaining members of the Don Tiger gang. They have been accused of a spate of armed robberies, in Ipoh and Kampar, since 2015.

These shootings, are by no means the only ones which have been reported. Fatal stabbings have also been reported.

The police held a press conference, the day after the Tambun shootings, to allay the fears, of the community, because they know that the public are worried about their safety.

The areas targeted were Ipoh Garden East and Tambun, which attract large number of tourists because of the presence of food, entertainment and leisure outlets.

The State Crime Prevention and Community Safety Department Chief, Senior Assistant Commissioner  (SAC) T. Selven and his team, handed out crime prevention leaflets to shop owners as part of the department's latest high profile policing programme

He said that regular patrols provided a visual presence. His department's role was also to keep the public informed and at the same time, he urged members of the public to cooperate with the police.

He said, “Overall, the crime index has fallen by 3.9% to 4264 cases between January and September 21 from 4439 cases during the same period last year. This is a reduction of 175 cases."

He claimed that there was a decrease of 13.3% for house break-ins, from 782 in 2015, to 678 cases this year. He reported a drop of 4.8% in motorcycle thefts from 1628 in 2015, to 1500 this year. He said that there had been a 2.7% increase, in street crimes, from 554 cases to 569 cases.

How do the police calculate crime index? What percentage of crimes involve firearms and parangs? How many of these involve gang warfare or drug distribution? What is the percentage of unsolved crime?

Both politicians and policemen are good at fiddling statistics, to mislead the public. To say that crime has fallen, most years, is both misleading and worrying, especially as we read about shootings and stabbings just about every other day.

Why are gangs terrorising our lives? Is the police force understaffed or underfunded? Why do our youth join gangs? What can the public do to help?