How can we tackle the crime rate when we can’t even get the figures right?

by Tony Pua
Malaysia has become an international laughing stock with Cabinet Ministers and government officials making contradictory statements backed by dubious data and arguments.

The latest of these contradictions is the Home Minister, Dato’ Seri Zahid Hamidi insisting that violent crimes have gone up in Malaysia despite the official police statistics released in the Parliament clearly indicating otherwise.

In the official statistics, there were 4,436 violent assault cases for the first 9 months of 2013 compared to 6,244 cases for the whole of 2012, or proportionately 73.7% of 2012.  For violent robbery cases including gang and armed robberies, there were 15,375 case from January to September 2013 to 20,140 in 2012 or 76.3%.  There were also 2,068 rape cases so far this year versus 2,964 cases last year or 69.8%.  Lastly there were 478 murder cases to date as opposed to 602 cases in 2012 or 79.4%.

Overall, there were 22,357 incidents of violent crime for the first three-quarter of 2013 or 74.9% of 29,840 such incidents in 2012.  The statistics clearly points to relatively unchanged situation in violent crimes.

Yet, despite the above, the Home Minister insisted that violent crimes have increased significantly and hence it served as the justification for the Government to amend the Prevention of Crime Act to include the controversial detention without trial provisions.

Dato’ Seri Zahid Hamidi cannot have his cake and eat it too.  He must either admit that he is wrong is insisting that violent crimes have increased, which meant that he his misled the Parliament to hastily approve the draconian elements of the Prevention of Crime Act, or that the Police statistics are completely unreliable and cannot be trusted.

When ordinary Malaysians suffer from crime, the Government and the Police cannot be insisting that crime has reduced and all that remains is to change the “perception of the people”.

Our position is very simply that the levels of crime in Malaysia is unacceptably high and clearly the police statistics, as previously highlighted, has been suspiciously manipulated to present a picture of moderating crime rates.  In part, this has been done by shifting the classification of certain crime incidents from “index” to “non-index” crimes.  It is such manipulation which has resulted in nearly unbelievable and incredible results as reported in the New York Times (NYT). The NYT reported “wide swings in some categories of crime, including a reduction in robberies using a firearm to 17 cases in 2012, from 722 cases nationwide in 2000. Another category, gang robbery, fell to 110 cases in 2012, from a high of 1,809 in 2010.”

At the same time, we object to the attempt by the Home Minister to tap of the fear of ordinary Malaysians to justify draconian detention without trial laws to curb crime, when it is the professionalism, competence and organisation of the police force which is the key areas requiring massive reforms and improvements to win the battle against crime.

We call upon the Home Minister to stop attempting to play politics with crime and start addressing the real reason why crime is at an unacceptable level in the country and support Prime Minister’s call that “the police must now train themselves how to look for evidence… Instead of just catching suspects and chucking them into EO detention”.  Dato’ Seri Zahid’s conflicting stand on crime has completely destroyed whatever credibility left with his police force.

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