Dear Minister, lower crime rate my foot!

And if the IGP wants to withdraw his men from duty in response to our complaints, go ahead, it makes no difference!

My father came home from his midday lecture to a feeling of something amiss when he stepped into the house. My mother was out for a haircut at that time. When he stepped into the room where he kept his notebook, he was overwhelmed by the worst fear of every home owner; his notebook was not where it was. His home had been burgled. He quickly exited the house and called the police. The burglars had stolen everything of value including his new 42″ flat screen TV. How they walked out boldly with a large TV at midday is anyone’s guess! This incident happened the day AFTER I started writing this article.

In May 2010, Malaysia’s Home Minister, Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein announced the crime index rate had dropped by 15.3% while street crime dropped a whopping 38.7%! When I first read this, I thought he must have made a mistake. To announce that street crime had dropped by almost 40% is almost ludicrous, I feel. And sure enough, there was a barrage of criticisms to his announcement.

So many things ran through my mind: if street crime is down by 40%, that would mean we should see and hear only half as many stories of snatch theft. I have not. We should hear fewer stories of laptops being stolen from Starbucks and Coffee Bean. I have not. We should hear fewer stories of people being robbed. I have not.

Maybe the home minister did not check his facts or maybe he pieced his facts together by manipulating the numbers.

Police being trained to stand so still that even criminals don't know they are there | Source:

Police being trained to stand so still that even criminals don't know they are there | Source:

A month of peril

In December 2010, a lady friend was robbed as she was leaving her office. A man threatened her with a knife and demanded her phone, jewellery, laptop and purse. She was an office administrator of a small company.

In the same month, my cousin nearly had his car jacked while he parked it outside his house. Three men in a car pulled up behind him and beckoned him over. He, being a good Samaritan, thought they needed directions in his neighbourhood. Instead, one man grabbed him while another snatched his car keys. Fortunately, he managed to struggle free and ran into a neighbour’s house for refuge. He owned an old Honda Civic.

In that month also, an ex-colleague had her bag snatched while walking to the bus stop after work. She sustained bodily injury and loss of her possessions. She worked as the clerk in a small company.

Checking a popular local website for secondhand notebooks around that time, I saw advertisements of people selling off their mouse and notebook’s power cable. I thought it was strange until I read that their notebooks were stolen in public places. The thief had simply unplugged the power cable and mouse and walked off with the notebook.

Who is the bogeyman?

When I was a small boy, I was warned if I was not careful, I would be kidnapped by an Indian man. When I was a young man, I was warned if I was not careful, my home would be broken into by an Indonesian man. Now I am in my forties and I am warned the Nigerians are now the new criminals in the country. And this is part of the problem: stereotyping. Who is the next bogeyman? The South Americans visiting our country? Yes, apparently it was the South Americans who robbed my family, according to the police to whom we made the report. It seems to me it is easier to blame a group of people than to carry out the task of actually lowering the crime index.

Let us not get down to bashing the police force for the sake of bashing them. But if the police are there to protect and serve then they must meet their goals. Would a private corporation allow failure to meet targets year after year? Is it any wonder movies such as Robocop feature the police force bring corporatised?

It is seems to me the police has generally failed in lowering crime. Well, I feel so. Yet, they are all we have. They are the first people we run to when in danger or being a victim of crime. Thus, I do not expect the IGP to counter criticism by threatening to withdraw his men-in-blue from protecting the rakyat. Is this the proper response for a proud institution whose men and women are in the service of their fellow rakyat?

What do I expect?

If crime is down, I should feel safer. The crime index may be officially and significantly lower but I do not feel safer. I am sad to report, the “statistics” link at the Royal Malaysian Police’s website is down. Two weeks ago, I could obtain statistics for crime involving narcotics but none on street crime. Today, the link to their statistics page just links back to the main page. I wonder, if the the crime index is down and the police are gaining ground in their fight against criminals, should not the website proudly display their results? I would have put those results on the main page!

Last month, a lady friend was kidnapped by men as she made her way home. They cornered her car with their vehicle, jumped into hers and took her for a terror ride. They threatened to gang rape her if she could not convince her family to pay the sum demanded. My friend is a very talented, bubbly girl who worked in a furniture store. It broke my heart to see her in a state after the incident.

During the Thatcher administration, KPIs were introduced in hospitals to increase productivity and weed out waste. In hospitals, KPIs were measured by the number of beds occupied. In order to meet the targets without increasing productivity, the hospital cunningly reclassified “stretchers” as “beds”! That means, while laying on a stretcher waiting to be transferred to a free bed, the hospital have met their “bed occupancy” quota. Is this how our crime index was lowered?

Two years ago, my friend’s brother was robbed near the Sogo Department Store. When he went to make a police report, he was told by the policeman on duty to not bother as they would be unable to catch the robber. Is this another way of lowering the crime index; by discouraging official reports?

Without real statistics, I can make a few assumptions:

  • The home minister and the police department pulled a “Thatcher KPI shuffle” on us.
  • The crime index has indeed been reduced overall except it has now concentrated among my acquaintances.
  • The crime rate has not changed but has worsened.

Still, I believe the crime index can be lowered. The rakyat are already following all the good advice to avoid being victims but we are not equipped to fight violent crime. No, such crimes must be handled by the police. If the police do not, then all is lost.

Already many groups of rakyat are helping keep the crime index down by employing private guards to protect their properties in gated communities. By all reasoning, I should feel safer. But I do not. I expect the police force to perform their duty and focus on actually lowering the crime index.

The hair salon: more influential than putrajaya? | Source:

The hair salon: more influential than putrajaya? | Source:

Mister Home Minister, I really did not expect you to have said, “Most victims are women. What do women do? They go to the hairdressers… they chit-chat and suddenly it (crime) is everywhere and cause people to fear.” How can you simply trivialise the concerns of the rakyat? I expect you to effectively do your job and lower the crime index, and not dazzle me with plain numbers.

Make me feel safe in my country again.

Pepper Lim was a coward who has decided not to sit on his ass any more but to get up and do something to help make Malaysia the best country in the world. He also has plans to make his family proud.

And well, you might as well withdraw the police from their duty as you threatened to, it makes no difference!

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Pepper is the father of two adorable children named Paprika Lim and Saffron Lim. "Dear Paprika" is a series of letters written for posterity. When Paprika is 20 years old, he will be 61. He prefers to use logic and evidence when presented with seemingly miraculous events. He supports LGBT rights and believes a person’s sexuality is no concern of others. In his spare time, he authored "The Troublesome Prince Lucky Mole"; a best-seller children’s story book. His family lives in beautiful Malaysia, a country rich in natural resources and unlimited potential. He moves with UndiMsia and APOSL. He has plans to make his family proud.

Posted on 31 March 2011. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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