Why is the Home Minister obsessed with crime perception when it should be crime prevention that we should be concerned with?
I almost could not believe my eyes when I read the news reports that quoted Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein as saying that “the government was switching its focus to managing public perception in the second phase of its National Key Result Area (NKRA) to lower growing concern.”
I had to watch a news report on TV to hear it with my own ears to confirm that he actually said the following.
“The issue now is not the index. That we are quite confident. The issue is not from the point of targeting street crime but the goal post has changed according to current demands. This will all be discussed and announced in the second phase of our NKRA,” Hishammuddin told a news conference after closing a special meeting at the Royal Malaysian Police College.
After the recent controversy over the “index crime” and “non-index crime” where it should clearly shown that crime statistics have been manipulated to show a drastic decline of “index crime” by re-classifying crime incidents to “non-index crimes” which are not published. It was only via a response by the Police to a whistleblower accusation that we found out that while “index crime” has declined 24.7% from 2007 to 2011, a very “commendable” achievement, “non-index crime” has on the other hand increased by a whopping 68.7% over the same period.
The figures provides the strongest evidence yet of statistical manipulation on the part of the authorities to reflect a much better performance measure than the reality facing the man-on-the-street.
Hence, the Home Minister is not wrong to claim that the issue “is not the index”. Of course it is not, it has been manipulated to show dramatic improvement in safety and security. The issue is with the manipulated and opaque “non-index” crime which hides the true situation on the ground.
If crime is indeed no longer an issue Malaysians should be concerned about, then surely both “index crime” and “non-index crime”, a relatively meaningly distinction should have declined somewhat proportionately over the same period.
What is shocking and unbelievable is the fact that the Home Ministry has allocated RM272 million specifically to improve the “crime perception index” under the National Key Result Area (NKRA).
I must admit that I am at a complete loss as to how best to knock it into the Minister’s thick skull that if crime has indeed improved significantly, and the risk of crime has been reduced substantially, the perception of crime will be automatically improved! The perception on the risk of crime is a derivative of the incidence and likelihood of being an actual victim of crime.
No matter how much money the Government decides to throw into improving the “perception” of crime, whether through advertisements or a sales and marketing pitch by perception consultants or other brainwashing attempts, the outcome will not change unless actual crime declines, and not some manipulated statistics.
Crime and safety is a hugely important matter for ordinary Malaysians, and they deserve much better policy makers to ensure that crime rates will be slashed. A doctor will not cure cancer by prescribing pain-killers for the pain but by dealing with the misbehaving cells. Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein should focus the ministry’s effort on the causes and prevention of crime, and not only the symtoms, that is the people’s perception.