LAST_UPDATETue, 17 Jul 2018 10pm

Crime Rates Have Dropped By 40% Since 2009 But Malaysians Just Don’t Feel Safe, No Matter What The Government Says

FilePic: flickr.comFilePic: flickr.comJust two days ago, Dang Wangi District Police Chief ACP Zainol Samah pointed out that street crime rate in the federal capital showed a drastic decline of 37.7 per cent or by 439 cases last year compared to 2014, Bernama reports.

The same pattern of declining crime rates is reflected in the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (PEMANDU) findings in its crime rate index which is one of the National Key Result Areas (NKRA). Since the beginning of the transformation journey under the Government Transformation Programme (GTP) in 2009, the recorded NKRA crime index came down by 40% over the last five years.


This translates to 350 crimes per day in 2014 compared to 580 crimes per day back in 2009.

This is definitely a big achievement for Pemandu NKRA Crime but the only setback is that the general public does not feel that crime has reduced and that the people’s fear of crime is high.

Pemandu also made similar observations about public perception not reflecting the favourable statistics in its website.

"Despite the successes of GTP 1.0, crime continues to be a pressing concern for Malaysians with many demanding greater security in the country of late after a sudden spate of criminal occurrences. GTP 2.0 continues the work of GTP 1.0 in this vein and looks to bring about a more robust change in the country’s policing system to set-up an ‘intelligence-based policing’."

This gap in perception on crime reduction in our society is again reflected in the 2015 Human Development Report published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) recently.

The report states that only 48% of Malaysians feel safe walking alone at night or on the city that they live, which leaves another 52% of Malaysians feeling unsafe.

Official crime index statistics and people’s perception of safety clearly do not go hand in hand, so Malaysian Digest took a closer look at the factors leading to this glaring disparity.

“Malaysians Just Refuse To Accept That They Are Safe”

A study on safety conducted by an independent consultant, Frost & Sullivan, last year, found that only 10% of the public believed that the crime rate had been reduced, Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed had revealed in August last year.

"This shows that there is a gap in perception on crime reduction in our society," he said, in an interview with a local online news portal.

We contacted renowned crime analyst, Mr Kamal Affandi Hashim, to get his insight on this gap between public perception of safety in relation to actual experience of safety.

When we relayed the results published by the UNDP to him, Kamal disagreed with it. He countered that the sample of the survey might not be sufficient to represent the whole population since we did not get the actual number of respondents that answered the Gallup World Poll question.

Kamal Affandi HashimKamal Affandi Hashim“The result might not be accurate because we do not know how many people it represents. Does it represent 5%, 10% of the population?” Kamal asked.

The most number of crime cases for the last 15 years involved motorcycle theft with around 52 000 cases a year, Kamal pointed out.

As for crime cases that threatened personal safety, they amounted to only a fraction of that number, which have fallen from on average 26 cases to 14 cases daily in crime hotspots, he asserts.

“Malaysians just refuse to accept that they are safe. Many believe that Malaysia is the only country that faces crime problems and other countries are crime free," he said.

He added that people are quick to condemn the police when crime happens instead of giving constructive criticism to help the police combat the crime in the future.

“It is true that one of the seven responsibilities of the police is to safeguard the public but it doesn’t mean that the public should just let go of any responsibilities,” he said.

He gave an example of new houses being built.

He questioned why some houses were more easily broken into than others and continued to say that the houses weren’t built based on safety specifications such as observing the safe distance between the doorknob and the windows.

“Housing developers are able to pay hundreds of thousands on consultations for the land that they are going to build on, so why can't they go to the nearest police station and ask for suggestions to make their houses safer, for free?

“The police will be able to tell them the pros and cons of building a house a certain way. So why aren’t they doing it? The reason is because we use the police as a scapegoat if anything wrong happens,” he continued.

Going back to personal safety, we asked Kamal what would be the solution for those who don’t feel safe in their own neighbourhood.

His answer? Get to know your neighbours.

“The only reason why you don’t feel safe is because you feel isolated in your own environment. And why would you feel that way? Because you don’t know your neighbours,” he said.

By getting to know your neighbours, you would be able to build a strong community, which is essential in developing the perception of feeling safe. However, Kamal said that only several neighbourhoods could be considered communities while the others are mostly colonies.

Pic: FacebookPic: FacebookHe also stated that any crimes that have happened need to be reported so that the police could take necessary actions in the future.

“For places where crime has occurred, our responsibility is to make a police report because with the input, the data will be processed and will be a unit in the crime map for the police to make a better plan,” Kamal advised.


Sharing Information Improves Perceptions Of Safety And Police Effectiveness

Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI) is one of the communities, which is living proof of Kamal’s observation - that if one makes the effort to get to know one’s neighbour, the feeling of isolation is reduced.

When done on a community wide scale, you have an entire residential neighbourhood working together to keep their streets safe.

Malaysian Digest contacted a member of the Residence Association (RA), Mr Clinton Ang, to share with us what goes on in the TTDI community.

One of the most effect tool in TTDI effectiveness in community policing lies in its unofficial Twitter and Facebook page run by individuals who took the initiative to share information through those platforms with the community.

Ang said that the residents preferred to keep abreast of important news through WhatsApp groups since not everyone is familiar with social media.

TTDI is made up of seven different areas and each area has their own WhatsApp group for the residents.

There is also a Security TTDI WhatsApp group that was created in conjunction with the police and the main people for each area are in the group.

“We share information of crime, suspicious figures and anything else on the platform as it is the fastest way,” Ang said.

When asked about the number of crimes that occurred in the neighbourhood, Ang said that the number of crimes have reduced from year to year.

“The police has impressed on us that the number has gone down. Having said that, they have given the number according to NKRA’s crime index and not specific to the area,” he added.

Despite the decrease in the number of crimes, Ang said that the residents still do not feel completely safe in their neighbourhood.

“The perception of crime is still there, (people are) still worrying,” he said.

Pic: TTDI Residence AssociationPic: TTDI Residence AssociationTo keep the residents safe, the TTDI RA has taken several measures to ensure that the guarded communities are safe other than forming the WhatsApp groups.

Their Rukun Tetangga is up and running and they are also working together with DBKL to light up the back lanes with led lights that are brighter than the lights at the main road. So far, 3 or 4 of the 7 areas have their back lanes lighted up.

“We are also expecting DBKL to light up the rest of the back lanes and also the various playgrounds because each area has its own playground.

“One area where the playground has been lighted up found that there are no more people loitering there at night,” And said.

Apart from the initiatives taken by the RA, some residents have volunteered and created their own Ronda/Patrolling group to patrol around the neighbourhood. Although it is inconsistent, they appreciate the initiative taken by the individuals.

People Who Understand Their Surroundings Become Less Fearful For Their Safety

As Kamal mentioned, Malaysians do not want to believe that they are safe, so we asked several members of the public about their perception of personal safety.

From the five respondents that we asked, most of them do not feel safe in their neighbourhood and are always cautious when leaving their homes.

“I don’t feel safe in my neighbourhood. When I first moved in, I once heard a woman shouting for help early one morning. She was being mugged.

“Although I hardly hear any crimes happening in my neighbourhood nowadays, I still don’t feel safe walking around on my own in my neighbourhood,” said Zaidah, who lives in a PPR building.

Mohd Faizal, who lives in Selayang, said that he is feels equal amounts of safety and danger, and that he will always be cautious going about because we cannot expect when something unsavoury is going to happen.

“We need to be cautious when walking about even though it is relatively safer nowadays. We cannot predict what will happen,” he said.

FilePic: theodysseyonline.comFilePic: theodysseyonline.comAnother respondent, Eliza Dora, a teacher who lives in a teacher’s quarters, said she feels safe in her own environment since she knows that it is relatively safe. However, when she ventures out of her comfort zone or find herself in places that people do not frequent, she does feel fear.

“Current issues surrounding personal safety makes me feel unsafe walking about in an unknown area on my own. I am always cautious because anything can happen in a blink of an eye,” she said.

She also believes that social media has an influence on people’s fear of crime happening to them since people always share news of violent crimes happening with everyone on social media.

Elaine, who lives in the Mid Valley area, on the other hand said that she would feel safer if she walked around with at least two other friends.

“There is no particular reason for me to feel unsafe in my neighbourhood, it’s just the feeling that I get if I think about walking around alone,” she said.

Guards patrolling the area have led Hong to feel safe at his workplace in Sri Hartamas, however, he still feels that the place is unsafe at night.

“It is okay in the morning or during the day but at night, I also don’t feel safe. I do not live in this area though, but I also do not feel safe in my neighbourhood in Sungai Besi,” he said.

Kamal also mentioned in the interview that people who emerge at night such as food vendors and street cleaners do not feel the fear that everyone else does.

“If they were scared, would they do their jobs? How can they do their daily activities without being crippled by fear? This is because they are people who understand their surroundings,” Kamal said.

When asked, a female vendor who has a food stall and declined to be named, said that she feels safe when she is at her stall that operates until 2 to 3 am because the place is buzzing with activity.

“But I never go back home right after I close shop. Instead, I opt to wait until around 5.30 to 6 am to head home when people are already heading out to start their day. Being a woman, it is dangerous to go home in the late hours alone with no one around,” she said.

“The Crime Index Can Never Be Zeroised And Neither Can The Fear Of Crime”

As pointed out by Kamal and the TTDI RA, countering fear requires everyone to take charge for our own personal safety by getting to know our neighbours, being aware of our surroundings and keeping each other informed.

With measures taken to reduce and have reduced crime rates, what else can be done to improve people’s perception on safety?

In November last year, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said that Putrajaya will release a new crime perception indicator (CPI) to measure the public’s sentiment towards crime.

The results of the CPI will be published together with the actual crime index to rectify the belief that crime was on the rise despite police statistics showing otherwise.

"Once it is calibrated properly, we will publish both, the crime index and the CPI.

"The CPI will help crime prevention and improve the efficiency of the enforcement agencies," he said in a speech when officiating a roundtable discussion on crime prevention on 3 November 2015.

Datuk Dr Amin Khan, Director of Pemandu’s Reducing Crime NKRA had expressed his view on the gap between the reality of the crime index and public perception of the index in a series of columns which have been shared in the PDRM Facebook page last year.

"We call this the “reality-perception” gap (Figure 2) and this is because the public tends to overstate the risks relating to crime.


"Fear of crime is actually the fear of possibly being a victim of a crime, whereas the feeling of being unsafe is the general feeling of being unsafe and not necessarily that the person will be a victim. Research shows we are worried on both components.

"Going forward, we decided to combine the two components of fear of crime and the general feeling of being unsafe into a “crime perception indicator” or CPI. The construction of this CPI will be explained in the subsequent article.

"The authorities cannot be fighting crime and the fear of crime alone.

"We must view this as a shared responsibility. We, the public, you and I, and the police must be united in fighting and bringing down crime and the fear of crime.

"The crime index can never be zeroised and neither can the fear of crime … What is important is that more is being done," Dr Amin pointed out.