Thursday, July 30, 2009

'Criminals here seem to have gone crazy'

'Criminals here seem to have gone crazy'
Fri, Jul 31, 2009
The New Paper

By Gan Ling Kai

JUST three weeks ago, his car became a target of crime in Johor Baru.

The thief smashed its window, and stole a cash card machine and the cash card.

It was the second time in a few years that actor Yao Wenlong's car window had been smashed.

Although not much was stolen in both instances - the cash card had only RM50 ($20) in the latest incident - the incidents rattled the Singapore PR's confidence.

'It's better to park your car in a crowded place, and you should not leave any valuables in it,' he said.

If a recent online poll by the Malaysian Home Ministry is any indication, most people feel unsafe in Malaysia.

According to the poll, 97 per cent of 9,776 respondents as of 5pm yesterday said they did not feel safe, because of the high crime rate.

More than 60 per cent said this was because they or their family members were crime victims. Only 1 per cent said they felt safe.

However, like most online polls, anyone could vote, and vote any number of times.

Wenlong's actor friend Chen Hanwei, 39, another Singaporean PR, crosses the Causeway twice a month to spend time with his parents.

Hanwei says he exercises extra caution on these visits.

His parents live in an estate of more than 100 houses. The estate has 3m-high wire fence all round it, and is guarded by more than 10 security personnel round the clock on foot or bicycles.

'I hardly leave my doorstep the moment I'm home. Even if I have to travel, I make sure I park my car at a spot where I can see it,' he said.

The New Paper also spoke to Mr Haji Mohd Sulaiman, 60, village chief of Kampung Parit Raja in Batu Pahat, Johor.

The retired teacher claimed that despite frequent police patrols in his village, crime still occurs.

'There are about 16 policemen on their rounds regularly. The villagers also patrol the area, but they are unarmed,' he said.

Still, two weeks ago, his two motorcycles were stolen. He claimed that the theft happened around 3am, when he was asleep.

Alarm system

Another Johor resident, Mr Jackie Long, 46, who owns an automobile accessories shop, said an alarm system for a car is not enough to fend off burglars.

Increasingly, Malaysian car owners are purchasing 'immobilisers', he said.

Priced at RM600 ($250) each, these immobilisers prevent the engine from running unless the correct key is used.

This prevents the car from being 'hot wired', which means starting it without a key.

Is the situation better in Kuala Lumpur?

No, says KL resident Hazarina Zakaria, 31, a business development manager.

Her ex-colleague was walking towards her car, parked outside her office building, when someone snatched her bag, said Ms Hazarina.

The victim tried to put up a fight but fell to the ground, suffering abrasions. She had to take long leave from work to recover from the trauma.

'I never thought that such violence could happen to my friend. The criminals here seem to have gone crazy. I myself feel like a 'psycho' when I have to keep looking over my shoulder. These days, you can get robbed even in crowded places,' she said.

The window of her own car was recently smashed by a thief, she added. A laptop case was stolen. Fortunately, the case was empty.

The car of another KL resident - Ms Milly Ngoh - was stolen about six years ago.

Ms Ngoh said: 'My husband had parked it by the side of the road and gone to relieve himself by the corner but when he returned, the car was gone. The thief was really fast.'

Fashion designer David Fung, 39, whose workshop is in KL, said one of his staff, too, was a victim of a snatch theft.

'She was riding behind her husband on a motorbike when another motorcyclist reached out to grab her anklet,' he said.

Doesn't use same route

To be safe, Mr Fung himself doesn't use the same route to go home every day.

Miss Falisa Abu Bakar, 40, who lives in a KL condominium, has not been attacked, but she is also on guard all the time.

'Gone are the days when we could feel safe walking to the shops. Last time, when we dine out, we could just plonk our bag on the empty seat next to us. Now, we have to hold on to our belongings.'

Miss Falisa said the crime situation in KL is probably related to the 'Mat Rempit' gangs - bikers illegally racing and performing stunts on public roads.

They are known to also commit snatch theft and armed robbery.

But not everyone agrees Malaysia is unsafe.

Former Malaysian crime reporter Ahmad Asri Khalbi told The New Paper he feels secure in his country.

'I can drink teh tarik in Johor alone at midnight and still feel safe,' said Mr Ahmad Asri, 38.

He added: 'I don't bother to install any alarm system. When I am away, my neighbour watches over my house.'

Prime Minister Najib Razak has declared war on crime, pledging to bring down the crime rate on the streets by 20 per cent next year.

'Four main areas - Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Penang, and Johor - have been identified as the hot spots for this type of (street) crime,' he said in Kuala Lumpur on Monday , while setting his administration's targets.

- Nurul Asyikin Mohd Nasir and Ervina Mohamed Jamil, newsroom interns

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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