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Crime prevention should be a national priority

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Unless a holistic approach to remove the conditions that are conducive to crime is adopted, we will only get temporary relief from the ongoing police crackdown, observes Ronald Benjamin.

Police move in on a vigil in Petaling Jaya to mark 50 years of the ISA on 1 August 2010 - Photo courtesy of sayaanakbangsamalaysia.net
Misplaced priorities? Police move in on a vigil in Petaling Jaya to mark 50 years of the ISA on 1 August 2010 – Photo courtesy of sayaanakbangsamalaysia.net

One of the critical principles of leadership and management that I have learned in the course of my work over the years, sometimes the hard way, is the importance of focusing on priorities or goals that would bring significant results.

Such priorities are linked to the nature and purpose of any profession (or ministry) where problems are first defined and the underlying causes of symptoms are identified. Sometimes defining the problems is difficult because of different perceptions and understanding of the issues which are complex. The process requires consensus through broad deliberations and concerted action with stakeholders.

The current crisis engulfing the nation, brought about by crime linked to powerful syndicates that finance gangs and drug distributors, brings out a vital question as to whether the principles mentioned above have been adhered to.

This raises the question as to whether the government and police force have been focusing on priorities – or have they been too busy trying to curb political dissent and to safeguard the interest of their political masters? According to online media reports, out of 112,583 police personnel in uniform only 10,150 or 9 per cent are in the criminal Investigation department. This statistic reveals a great deal about priorities.

The so-called statistics about lower crime rates during Hishammuddin Hussein tenure as Home Minister not only reveal a contradiction with the present but also shows that these statistics have not brought about a significant reduction in crime. Instead, what we have is a public relation exercise to look good in the public eye.

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For example, are the statistics that reveal a reduction in the crime rate linked to the dismantling of activities of powerful crime syndicates or were they the result of arresting petty drug distributors or those involved in petty crimes? How can crime rates go down when powerful crime syndicates are moving about freely?

Have the government and civil society collaborated in addressing the conditions of poor Malaysians who are caught in a cyclical web and culture of poverty and hopelessness that creates conditions for crime?

The current cases of crime involving firearms appear to be linked to syndicates that are wealthy and able to drive their criminal agendas by recruiting vulnerable young people. These cases clearly show that there have been misplaced priority, incompetency and negligence on the part of the Barisan Nasional government and Home Minister, in particular over the years.

Wealthy Malaysians and certain politicians from both sides of the political divide should also bear some responsibility for their gated mentality and a culture of separation which allows little or no interaction with the poor and marginalised.

Crime prevention should be a national priority. Collaboration of all stakeholders is vital to create conditions that would prevent our young people from falling into the trap of crime. Unless such a holistic approach is taken to remove the conditions that are conducive to crime, we will only get a temporary relief from the police crackdown including shootings.

Collaborative activities will not bear immediate results, but they will build the necessary foundation to reduce crime effectively in the long term.

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