AMONG the special nationwide operations which brought about a drop of 11 per cent in the crime rate in 2011 from the previous year was one with the code-name Ops Pintu.
As its name indicated, this operation, one of four carried out to combat crime under the Government Transformation Programme, was aimed specifically at preventing house break-ins and had resulted in over 350,000 people being searched and more than 850 arrested. Home owners were also shown the best way to secure their homes.
Needless to say, the frequent reports of house break-ins have many home owners on tenterhook. Burglary gangs are active not only in Kuching but also the other major towns, and the population at large have been hit one way or another.
The favourite targets of break-in gangs are unattended homes or homes in quiet, if not isolated, residential neighbourhoods and offices closed for a long weekend.
Their modus operandi is more or less the same – taking note of the habits of potential victims, at the same time checking whether or not the house has an alarm system.
After that, the gangs decide what’s the best time to strike. And for every score they made, they would have kept survelliance on their target for quite a while. In other words, they had done their homework.
Although the common aim of the gangs is to break in and loot a house, not all go for the same things. Some take cash only while others are more interested in jewellery, especially gold items.
Most gangs are armed with knives or other sharp objects as well as tools for breaking padlocks and window grills and disarming the alarm system.
Many break-ins occur when the house occupants are sleeping or when elderly family members are alone at home.
The victims are usually tied up and the house completely ransacked. There have also been cases of gang members helping themselves to the food in the kitchen and then most despicably leaving their waste on the floor before making their getaway.
Looting of the master bedroom is probably the hardest for any house owner to stomach. Such invasion of the santum of the home is most traumatising. The houseowner is left with the sickening feeling that his whole being has been violated.
There are also perverted break-in gangs with a fetish for underwear. They only take male briefs and female undergarments and leave the other belongings alone for reasons best known to themselves.
It’s important to create awareness by highlighting the importance for home owners to secure their homes properly, and for neighbours to look out for each other by raising the alert if they happened to see people behaving suspiciously in their area. Such neighbourly co-operation could prevent a lot personal pain and the loss of valuable household items.
Police mobile patrols are a good crime-prevention measure but more need to be done to cut the crime rate even further, and mounting special operations akin to those resulting in a sharp drop of the crime rate last year will certainly serve to ensure continuity in effective crime-busting.
In this connection, it’s heartening to note that the Voluntary Patrol Scheme (VPS), launched by National Unity and Integration Department in its Rukun Tetangga areas (KRT) have contributed enormously towards the eradication of crime in Sarikei Division. In most KRT areas with VPS in place, the crime index is zero.
The department’s state director Dirwana Azool has expressed the hope that the over 50 KRTs in the Division would set up VPS to strengthen their crime-prevention efforts. His advice is timely and should be heeded. Presently, out of the 555 KRTs in the state, only 179 have formed VPS.
We may never be as effective in preventing crime if we continue sticking to the old ways. If the system becomes too stereo-typed, the criminal mind will be able to read the situation and capitalise on it.
As the perpetration of crime has become more sophisticated, there is a need to counter the disturbing trend with an equally smart strategy as opposed to one of complacency and non-chalance.
The path of vigilance will keep the criminals at bay whereas a cavalier attitude will only play into the hands of underworld elements.
Ultimately, what is needed to fight crime is a holistic approach. This can be achieved if the public continue to work closely with the police in the common endeavour to bring down the crime rate even further.