Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Crime is all Perception

That's what the Royal Malaysian Police and the Government would like you to think. Clearly, it seems if since the Police can't fight crime effectively, the next best thing to do is to fight perception.

The Royal Malaysian Police and the Deputy Prime Minister have over the past few days, gone on an offensive to blame the high crime rates in Malaysia on “perception”.

The Star reported on 30th November that the Deputy Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Tan Sri Ismail Omar said the latest statistics showed the crime index to be 772 cases per 100,000 residents and compared it favourably against Singapore which according to him “recorded 704.7 cases, Hong Kong (1,166), Japan (1,569) and Australia (4,470)”.

On 1st December, the IGP himself, Tan Sri Musa Hassan was reported in the New Straits Times saying that “our crime rate is still low compared with many other countries although the global trend shows an increase... Singapore's crime rate is 740.7 cases for every 100,000 population, Hong Kong's is 1,166, Japan's is 1,569, Australia's is 4,470 and Rome's is 8,341.”

As reported in the Malaysian Insider, “Malaysia is still a very safe country, but the problem is public perception. We are trying our level best to give a correct picture,” Federal Criminal Investigation Department director Datuk Mohd Bakri Zinin told The Straits Times.

And as reported in the media today, our Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak said that "our perception of crime must change" because “based on the statistics given by the police, it indicates that the crime rate in Malaysia is lower than Japan and Hong Kong.”

The above appears to be a concerted effort by the Government to downplay the significance of 2% increase in the crime index as of October this year compared to last year, as well as to blame the public concerons over high crime rates in Malaysia as a matter of misplaced “perception”.

Howvever, the Royal Malaysian Police has failed to provide the full picture in the statistics provided and instead have given a misleading perception that Malaysia is much safer than Japan, which is renown as one of the safest countries in the world.

Based on statistics provided by the Statistics Bureau of Japan, in 2007, the crime rate per 100,000 is 1,493.6. However, approximately 75% of this number is classified as “larceny” or theft (e.g., shoplifting etc.)

Similarly in 2005, the crime rate per 100,000 is 1,775.7. However, larceny made up 76% of all cases, while violent crimes which includes homicide, arson, rape, bodily injury etc., made up 3.8% or 66.6 cases per 100,000. Homicide and rape cases form 1.09 and 1.62 cases per 100,000 population respectively. In contrast, for 2007, violent crimes recorded 180.1 cases per 100,000 while homicide and rape cases in Malaysia form 2.12 and 11.47 cases per 100,000 population respectively.

The biggest contrast is for robbery cases in Japan which records only 4.69 cases per 100,000 while it's a staggering 88.76 cases for Malaysia. Similarly, criminal intimidation in Japan records only 1.92 cases per 100,000 while in Malaysia it's 21.31 cases. Hence, the Government's attempts to paint a picture that Malaysia is much safer than Japan is clearly misleading at best. In fact, from the statistics of violent crimes above, Malaysia is a much more dangerous place when compared to Japan.

To further illustrate how the comparisons with the countries highlighted is misleading is that the Malaysian index includes on violent and property crimes, but excludes white collar and moral crimes. For the Japanese index, “intellectual offences” (e.g., fraud, embezzlement, counterfeit etc.) and moral offences makes up 20% of the total crime rate in 2005.

Similarly in Singapore, the Singapore Police Force announced a crime rate of 715 per 100,000 in 2007 where commercial and miscellaneous crimes constitute 21.8% of the index. Hence the claim that Malaysia is nearly as safe as Singapore is clearly unfounded.

In addition, separate crimes ranking table compiled by NationMaster, Malaysia is ranked 34th in terms of the number of murders per capita, which is higher compared to Australia (43), Italy (47), Hong Kong (59) and Japan (60). In terms of rapes per capita, we are ranked 38th, but still ahead of Italy (46), Japan (54) and Hong Kong (55).

Therefore, while Malaysia is clearly not the worst country in the world in terms of crime, the fact that the crime index has risen by more than 45% since 2003, while violent crimes have increased by more than 85% demonstrates clearly the dire circumstances we are in.

The people of Malaysia no longer feel secure and safe walking the streets. Hence the Government's attempts to change the “perception of crime” in Malaysia by citing statistics which are most misleading is most irresponsible. Instead of continuously blaming public perception as the key reason why crime is seen as serious in this country, the Government and the Royal Malaysian Police should instead focus its efforts in fighting crime and improving its credibility with tangible steps, such as implementing the full recommendations of the Royal Police Commission report which included the restructuring of the police force such that 30% of the police force is transferred from administrative to crime-fighting functions as well as to set up the all-important Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission.
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