JOHOR BARU: The number of touts at public parking areas in the city centre here are increasing and the public want the authorities to take action to curb the problem.
A check by The Star found that there were at least three touts at busy streets in the heart of town, especially at Jalan Dhoby, Jalan Trus, Jalan Segget, Jalan Ibrahim and Jalan Tan Hiok Nee.
There were also a number of Johor Baru City Council (MBJB) enforcement officers and police officers issuing summons to motorists without valid parking coupons and to those parked illegally along the road.
Despite signboards put up by MBJB urging motorists not to give in to the demands of the touts, many drivers said they have no choice in the matter as they were afraid that their vehicles would be damaged.
Businessman A. Visva, 40, who frequents the area almost on a daily basis, said he did not want to argue with the touts as some of them appear aggressive.
“I live close by and come here to run errands or meet clients and there is always a tout waiting around to make a quick buck.
“I usually give RM1 to avoid problems but sometimes I come around two or three times a day, so I end up spending about RM50 a month just on touts,” he said.
Another motorist, who identified himself as just Cen Chan, said that a tout had tried to damage his car with a large stone when he refused to pay after parking along Jalan Tan Hiok Nee recently.
“He became abusive when I refused to give him money and when he picked up a stone, I immediately drove off,” he said, urging the authorities to take action against them.
A restaurant owner who has been operating here for the past 40 years said the problem had worsened and that not only were locals dominating the streets but also Indonesians and Vietnamese touts.
“I believe they are a syndicate as the men manning the street in front of my shop work on a rotation basis,” she said, adding that many customers had complained that they were forced to pay the touts.
She added that the touts were not only a nuisance to motorists but also an embarrassment as they marred the area that was popular among both locals as well as tourists.
A tout, who wanted to be known only as Amran, 49, claimed that their round the clock “services” was very much needed as they not only helped ease traffic congestion by guiding the motorists when parking their vehicles but also provided a sense of security as they looked after the cars while owners were away.
“Most of us do not extort money from motorists ,” he said, adding that he could make between RM30 to RM50 daily.
Meanwhile, city mayor A Rahim Nin said a total of seven integrated operations with the Road Transport Department, police and the National Anti Drugs Agency had been conducted since February to overcome the problem.
“Apart from that, seven MBJB enforcement officers have been stationed at the hotspots where touts operate to chase them away,” he said, adding that 16 were nabbed by the police during an operation on July 17.
He urged motorists not to give in to their demands and lodge a police report if they encounter aggressive touts who threaten to harm them or their vehicles.