DESPITE the endless complaints against them, the jaga kereta or parking touts continue to thrive in several locations, especially at tourist spots in Ipoh.
These touts are also getting aggressive, demanding visitors to pay them even when they park at parking bays designated by the Ipoh City Council.
About half a dozen of them could be seen loitering and waiting for motorists to park their cars near Jalan Dato Tahwil Azar, where several bean sprouts chicken restaurants operate.
Tailor KS Chiam, in his 60s, said he had an unpleasant experience meeting touts there recently.
“I was taking some relatives to eat at a famous bean sprouts chicken restaurant at Jalan Dato Tahwil Azar and got into an argument with one of the touts.
“The tout told me that I needed to pay him RM2 and he will scratch a parking coupon for me,” he said.
“I told him that I already have my own parking coupons but he still insisted I pay him RM1, which is unreasonable.
“As I did not want my car to be scratched or damaged, I gave him the RM1,” he added.
Chiam said he became enraged when another tout demanded money from him to lengthen the parking period with another parking coupon.
“The second tout asked me to pay 50sen when I returned to my car to place another parking coupon.
“I raised my voice in dissatisfaction and scared him away. This is getting ridiculous,” he said.
Currently, motorists need to pay 30sen for 30mins, 60sen for an hour and RM4 for the entire day for council parking bays.
The parking coupons are enforced daily between 8am and 6pm, except for Sundays and public holidays.
Ipoh City Watch president Prof Richard Ng said the touts were behaving like thugs, forcing motorists to pay “protection” money for their cars even though they had placed their coupons.
“Many motorists reluctantly pay these men to keep their cars from being scratched,” he said.
Ng said Ipoh has witnessed a huge jump in tourist arrivals since Lonely Planet listed the city as a recommended Asian destination.
“The presence of parking touts can tarnish the image of the city and drive tourists away.
“I hope when complaints against the touts are highlighted by the press or sent to Ipoh City Council’s hotline, action is taken,” he said, adding that the city council, the Road Transport Department and the police should work together to keep them in check.
“Once in a while, these government agencies will conduct checks at those places, but nothing can be done as there is no law to arrest these people,” he added.
Ng said the respective agencies should make their presence felt at areas frequented by the touts.
“As there are currently no laws to deal with them, the Government needs to amend the local government act to enable city council enforcement officers to take action against them,” he said.
“The city council is collecting the parking fees, so they should be given the responsibility to tackle this menace,” he added.
Ng suggested that the state implement something similar to what Penang was doing, which was make eradicating parking touts part of the key performance indicator for all relevant agencies.
A businessman, who only wanted to be known as James, said he hoped the state government would make some drastic changes to resolve the issue.
“People want to see changes and I really hope the government can do something about it now,” said the 43-year-old.
“I understand that the enforcement agencies’ hands are tied as there are no laws to put a stop to these touts. This change needs to come from the state government,” he said.
“While looking into the issue regarding touts, they should not forget about dealing with beggars asking for money from motorists at traffic light junctions,” he added.
James said what the touts were doing was akin to harassment.
“They do not have the right to ask money from us.
“We do not owe them. They even have the audacity to do so on public holidays when parking is free, which is preposterous,” he said.
“If the enforcement agencies do not take any action, the touts will think it is all right for them to continue,” he added.
When contacted, state Social Welfare Committee chairman Wong May Ing said the Welfare Department had been trying to deal with them for ages.
“We have tried to get them jobs and temporary places to stay.
“They, however, just ignore our welfare officers. They also prefer to remain a parking tout,” she said.
“Some of them are also believed to be involved with drugs,” she added.
Wong said she was currently working with state Tourism Committee chairman Tan Kar Hing to resolve the matter.
“We are trying to come up with other methods to get them to stop. But as of now, there is nothing concrete yet,” she said.
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