Sunday, 24 June 2012

Crime: Perception and publicity — The Malaysian Insider

JUNE 24 — Datuk Seri Idris Jala has a tough job, to manage the performance and delivery of key government initiatives and targets from the economy to cutting index crime.

So, the minister and the PEMANDU chief executive has to work with the private and public sector on all these targets.

But telling the media how to report crime — be it solved or unsolved — isn’t really his brief. That’s just window-dressing, and there’s a limit to window-dressing, don’t you think?

The Sunday Star today carried an interview with Jala, where he called on the media to play its role in fighting crime and help arrest the “doom and gloom” by reporting on solved cases and not sensationalising crime by repeatedly reporting the same news.

“They should work closely with the police on communicating the cases that they have successfully solved. Sometimes, we need to arrest the doom and gloom by also focusing on the positives.

“If the statistics are not convincing, perhaps then we should try to dwell into how the police were able to bring the crime rates down in a specific area, for example, one of the hotspots,” he was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

Putrajaya’s efficiency unit has staunchly defended statistics showing street crime has fallen by 40 per cent in the past two years despite a recent spate of high-profile kidnappings and assaults.

These cases in the Klang Valley, one of which has left a teacher fighting for her life, have led to questions over PEMANDU’s claim that crime dropped by 11.1 per cent last year with street crime falling by 39.7 per cent in the last two years since crime reduction was made a National Key Result Area (NKRA) in 2010.

Yes, police statistics, where available, are pretty impressive.

But even within government circles and among some Cabinet ministers, there is little belief in PEMANDU’s figures or statistics.

Numbers don’t tell the stories that people pass on to each other, the violence and the fear among those who have been robbed in broad daylight or in the wee hours of the morning in what are supposedly safe areas.

In addition, there are several hundred thousand foreign security guards who protect Malaysian neighbourhoods, some which are now gated but still report incidents of crime.

It is an open secret that a fair number of Malaysians have lost trust in the police force and therefore don’t report crimes when they happen. Or often enough, are discouraged from reporting petty crime.
So instead of lecturing the media on what to do and what not to, Jala and his colleagues in PEMANDU should step off their pedestal and acknowledge that window dressing and cosmetic change have their limits.

Malaysians don’t feel safe, and it doesn’t matter if the mass media reports it or not. There is enough social media to put flesh to the bare bones that statistics do to explain the crime rate in the country.

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