Neighbourhoods under siege
Writer: Fahmi Fadzil
Published: Fri, 28 Oct 2011
OF late I’ve been thinking a lot about neighbourhoods – all these places where we grew up, started our own families, and basically watched the nation go by.
Neighbourhoods are supposed to be safe places. Safe enough that we should be able to let our children wander through the alleys and play by themselves in the fields. Safe enough that we should really be able to leave our doors unlocked during the day, and maybe even at night. Safe enough that we can sleep easy knowing that tomorrow morning, everything in our house would be where they were the night before.
Yet the perception these days is that that is not what our neighbourhoods have become.
Take Taman Tun Dr Ismail (yes, I know, it’s technically KL, yet before 1974 it was Selangor, so can consider it cukup syarat lah). Recently, TTDI residents were shocked to read about the case of six parang-wielding young men on motorbikes who pounced on an unsuspecting victim in the Burhanuddin Helmi area of TTDI at 9.30pm.
Unfortunately for one of them, their unsuspecting victim was none other than an off-duty policeman. When he brought out his pistol, they attempted to flee, yet for one of them it was too late – the policeman opened fire and the robber was killed on the spot.
Incidences like this used to be more regular a few years ago in most parts of TTDI. Residents in neighbouring Bandar Utama and Damansara would vouch the same for their areas as well.
Yet so many months ago, many of these neighbourhoods decided that they had had enough and went on a “gated and guarded scheme” spree. Security booms and checkpoints were erected, residents’ support was canvassed and money collected, and meetings with various local authorities were held.
While I don’t have the official crime statistics, anecdotally many residents in these areas reported fewer incidences of crime, at least in our mailing lists.
Yet such a haphazard approach to neighbourhood security is indicative of a larger systemic problem, and begs the question: “Why are residents relying on other than the police for their security?”
Could it be that we do not have enough police personnel? Evidently not. According to a research paper prepared by Research for Social Advancement (Refsa), our current police officer per capita ratio is just about right: 1 for every 270 Malaysians (Interpol recommends 1:250).
Yet some 41% of these police officers are tasked with management or administration, leaving just about 9,000 police personnel assigned to the crucial Criminal Investigation Department.
So instead of adding 50,000 more personnel – there are such plans in the pipeline – we should be clamouring for the redeployment of police officers!
(As an aside, the Refsa paper Staffing the Police points out that the General Operations Force, which was set up to combat the communist insurgents during Malaya’s Emergency years, has nearly 15,000 personnel.)
What, then, is stopping those in power from such redistribution of resources? I’m not sure, to be honest.
But let’s hope that with PDRM’s move to embrace social media – they already have a Facebook page and have recently started @PDRMsia on Twitter – much more two-way conversations can happen.
So while we cannot immediately do away with the cones, barrels and booms that barricade the outskirts of our neighbourhoods, we also cannot immediately do away with such outsourced security as we would be overly exposing our homes to danger.
What we can do away with, I believe, is the feeling of being powerless to change the condition that we are in.