DRIVING in Petaling Jaya at night has become a guessing game for motorists unfamiliar with the areas as boomgates are lowered and oil barrels are rolled onto the roads to block access to the neighbourhood.
These obstructions have been set up by residents associations throughout the city in the hope of curbing crime and allowing residents to feel safer in their own homes.
These associations have to first send in applications to the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) before approval is given for them to begin work on their gated and guarded security scheme.
Once permission is given, security guards are employed and access roads are cordoned off as assemblymen and councillors visit the area to launch the scheme.
Unfortunately, those not living in the area but who have to use the roads are caught in the middle and have to endure all kinds of obstacles to find their way around.
In many places, neighbourhoods that used to have up to five access roads are almost completely cut off, with only one accessible at any one time.
At the points where access is allowed, security guards are posted and, most of the time, they just wave drivers through.
However, there is some attempt to stop motorists to record their particulars and find out why they want to enter an area and who they are visiting.
Why do they need to ask such questions, and do they even have a right to do so? After all, the access points are public roads.
There have also been complaints from some residents who do not subscribe to their security schemes, claiming that the security guards made it harder for them to enter their own neighbourhoods.
Several guards admitted to giving non-members of the scheme a hard time but said they had no choice as they were merely following the instructions given by the residents association.
Some also said they had been yelled at by irate motorists who kicked up a storm when they found out that the roads had been blocked.
“We try our best to explain the situation but they do not understand that we have no choice but to listen to what we are told to do,” a guard who wished to remain anonymous said.
Crime may be rampant in the city but to simply set up a boom gate and padlock it at midnight, without the slightest regard to an emergency in the wee hours, is selfish and could lead to untoward incidents.
We were told that only certain guards and residents on the security committees hold keys to the padlocks on the boom gates.
Ambulance drivers who are not familiar with the area may find themselves late in attending to a patient because, even with the best GPS device money can buy, he would not be able to get to a house on time as the nearest access could be blocked off.
Fire department corporate communications head Morni Mamat said blocking off access to housing areas could slow down the response time of fire trucks trying to reach the scene of an incident.
“In the event of a fire or any other emergency, an extra 10 minutes can make a lot of difference and could even result in the loss of lives.
“Furthermore, when we take a longer time to arrive, people say that we are not efficient,” Morni said.
He also said some of the back- lanes meant for fire trucks and emergency vehicles have been closed off by residents associations.
“We understand that residents need security but they should also consider the safety aspect,” he said.
There have also been numerous complaints from residents who do not subscribe to their respective security schemes, claiming that security guards were taking it out on them.
At present certain areas like SS2, Taman Megah Mas, Damansara Utama, Damansara Jaya, Kampung Tunku and Bandar Utama have full fledged gated and guarded security schemes.
Some of the areas have begun closing off certain access roads round-the-clock while others have different operational hours, the most common being between 11pm and 6am the following day.
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