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Monday, November 29, 2010

Malaysians feeling safer: Fact or fallacy?


Mariam Mokhtar, Malaysia Chronicle

EDITOR'S PICK A few days earlier, the Malaysian Crime Prevention Foundation (MCPF) vice-chairman Lee Lam Thye said that the ‘negative perception of the police by the community is seen as a new “crime” which should be curbed immediately’. Lee is mistaken. People only criticise when it is glaringly obvious that the police have been abusive or high-handed.


‘Malaysians feel safer’: This was the conclusion reached by the world’s largest custom market research specialist TNS Research International (TNS), from a study conducted at crime hotspots in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Johor.

The survey was used to evaluate the National Key Results Area (NKRA) on crime reduction under the Government Transformation Pro gramme. The results showed that the fear of becoming victims of crime decreased from 58.5% in December 2009, to 55.1% in May this year.

The TNS managing director, Yazid Jamian said, “The 3.4% drop within a short period of time is significant and marks a commendable improvement. It indicates that Malaysians are now less fearful of becoming victims. This signifies confidence in the police force”.

The “robbery and burglary” category of the index showed a 10% reduction to 58.7% this year whilst “violence” saw a 3% reduction to 44.9%.

The survey also showed that public satisfaction with the police services increased from 35.8% in December 2009 to 42.2% in May this year.

Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein credited crime reduction to the deployment of 14,222 policemen and 3,663 RELA and civil defence force members at 50 hotspots.

However, the public would be forgiven for thinking that the Malaysia surveyed by TNS, is different from the one they inhabit.

Snatch thefts, muggings, rapes, burglaries, online scams, kidnaps and violent assaults make daily reading in the newspapers and on radio and television.

Every street corner and building has a closed circuit camera to monitor the movements of the public and security guards are deployed for gated communities. But not everyone can afford to live in a gated community or pay the service charges of a well-guarded premises.

Yazid’s conclusion that Malaysians are ‘confident in the police force’ contrasts sharply with the perception of members of the community who say that victims of police abuse and deaths of people kept in detention are high. It also does not explain how the spate of indiscriminate shootings of teenagers can inspire confidence in the police force.

Moreover, police action is believed by several quarters to be used against political opposition members.

Others allege that there is involvement of the police in crime syndicates and that corruption is a serious problem within the police force.

A few days earlier, the Malaysian Crime Prevention Foundation (MCPF) vice-chairman Lee Lam Thye said that the ‘negative perception of the police by the community is seen as a new “crime” which should be curbed immediately’.

He said, “Although the police and other agencies do a good job of fighting crime and arresting offenders, there are still those who criticise and highlight the weaknesses of the police”.

Lee is mistaken. People only criticise when it is glaringly obvious that the police have been abusive or high-handed.

Lee also said that Asians, including Malaysians, were inclined to questioning and having a negative perception of anything done by the authorities.

Again, this is erroneous as Malaysians are by nature passive and will not normally question those in authority.

Last June, Hishammuddin disclosed in parliament the police loss of 62 firearms since 2001. This included 36 semi-automatic pistols, 51 revolvers, two sub-machine guns, 58 cases of missing vehicles, involving 49 motorcycles, three cars, one van and a four-wheel drive vehicle.

Salahuddin Ayub (PAS-Kubang Kerian) who was among three Pakatan Rakyat ‘cabinet committee’ members overseeing the home ministry demanded that Hishammuddin explain how such loss of police property was possible.

Salahuddin concluded then, that the police inability to ensure the safety of its own equipment would erode public confidence in their ability to fight crime.

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