Malaysians feel the country is a more dangerous place to live in

Susan Tam

Many Malaysians feel the country is becoming a ‘more dangerous’ place to live in.

In a Yahoo! Malaysia poll run on the subject recently, over 80% of respondents said they felt the country was unsafe.

Only 3,000 out of about 20,000 polled felt the country was a safe place to live in.

Yahoo! Malaysia’s poll was created to gauge the reaction of the public to the spate of crimes in major cities lately.  In the past few weeks, there have been many reports of people being attacked and robbed in shopping malls as well as falling victim to snatch thieves.

The crimes that have especially shocked Malaysians include a recent attack on an elderly man in One Utama shopping mall, in Bandar Utama.  Most users reacted sympathetically to the victim and criticized the police force and security measures taken to protect citizens.

Facebook user Jack Jayprakash said that even if Malaysia had a million policemen, there would not be a reduction of crime.

“Malaysia policemen are busy catching people who never wear helmet, never tighten seatbelt and parked wrongly [sic],” he wrote.

Meanwhile, James Hew defended shopping mall guards, calling Malaysians to be alert as there are many robberies happening at all times of the day.

Another attack that went viral on social media involved marketer Chin Xin-Ci, who was abducted and nearly raped in the Curve shopping mall in May.  She escaped miraculously and wrote a Facebook note warning other Malaysians to stay safe and alert when moving around in Kuala Lumpur.

Many citizens’ groups and opposition parties have responded to these violent attacks, pressuring the government to improve on security for Malaysians.

However, Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein dismissed claims that crime is on the rise and instead blamed public perception for escalating fear.  However, the minister did admit that more needed to be done and that the government was ‘not in denial’ on public fear of crime.

The government agency - Performance and Management Delivery Unit (Pemandu) - also came to the authorities’ defence, claiming that the crime index had fallen.  The index measures the number of police reports lodged for certain types of crimes.  According to Pemandu, the index fell by 26.3% in the first six months of 2012 from the same period in 2009.

The agency had assured Malaysians that many initiatives were being introduced, such as the Safe City programme, which involved installations of CCTVs and street lights to allay fears of crime.  More police personnel were also being deployed to patrol the streets.

The government also decided to appoint a senior police officer to lead Pemandu’s anti-crime initiatives to co-ordinate anti-crime policies and on-ground police deployment.

Pemandu’s crime reduction NKRA director Eugene Teh said the mismatch between crime figures and fear could be explained partly by a time lag.

“The fear actually grew because people are talking more about crime and they see more cops on the street,” he said, adding that Pemandu statistics show anti-crime initiatives were working.

But Malaysians are not convinced.  Readers commenting on Yahoo! Malaysia’s stories are still angry.

Loke writes, “My wife was robbed twice but when she made police reports, she was told to write it as ‘lost’ instead of robbed. Why?”

Others blamed the lack of civic-mindedness among the public.  Snatch theft victim Tan Kim Chuan lay injured on the road after the robbery and was ignored by passers-by.

Reader Kelly wrote, “While the snatch thieves were to be condemned, it was most disgusting to see five passer-bys being equally inhumane.  It is high time that Malaysians should be reminded to be more civic minded to help injured victims [sic].”

Others have suggestions, such as Redfaceindian, who asked why the police aren’t introducing crime watches, like in Singapore.

“The public can be the eyes for the police and those with information can be rewarded accordingly.  The crooks get caught, the informants are happy,” he said.

Some experts find social media partly to blame for the increased fear of crime.  In a Malaysiakini report, psychologist and criminologist Geshina Ayu Mat Saat said sharing experiences online was similar to group therapy, a method used to help people suffering from trauma.

But, she explained that with the viral nature of Facebook and Twitter, spreading crime stories raised fear amongst those who were not victims, making them feel vulnerable and anxious.