MANY of us would have at one time or another received e-mail circulating on the Internet warning female patrons of a popular shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur of an attempted gang-rape involving parking attendants and security guards.
I used to dismiss them, telling my friends that it was probably the work of a rival shopping complex or pranksters.
In any case, many of us are often suspicious of information posted on the Internet, including so-called news websites, as they have often been proven inaccurate.
But the abduction of Canny Ong from the Bangsar Shopping Complex at 9.45pm on June 15, an upmarket area, must have shattered our sense of security.
The authorities may say that Ong was at the wrong place at the wrong time, in assuring us that it was an isolated case.
They may be right but the public demand that shopping complex owners wake up and provide better security for those who spend money at their premises.
Consider this: It was reported on Nov 30 last year that a 47-year-old business executive was brutally raped in her car after being tied up with her bra at a parking lot in Damansara Uptown in the evening.
The mother of two adult children, who works with an international cosmetics company, was getting into her car when a man grabbed her from behind before pulling out a knife and forcing her into the car.
The man then drove to a secluded spot in the basement car park and robbed and raped her.
There were more reports this year. On March 13, it was reported that a 15-year-old policeman’s daughter was allegedly raped by a friend in a woman’s toilet at a shopping complex in Ampang.
The stunned Form Three student tried to put up a fight but was overpowered and threatened by the man. The report said that it was the fourth rape involving young girls in the city in recent weeks.
On March 3, it was reported that a Form Four student who befriended several youths at a shopping mall in Jalan Sultan Ismail was gang-raped at a rooftop parking lot.
And on May 30, a 19-year-old girl was molested and assaulted by a group of youths at a shopping complex while having dinner with her boyfriend.
One of the youths had grabbed her breasts after making lewd suggestions to her. Her cries caught the attention of five security guards but instead of arresting the youth, they advised her to let the culprit go.
These incidents get reported because they are serious offences but cases of car theft, mugging and burglary probably go unreported because victims do not want to go through the hassle of making police reports when the chances of recovering their goods are low.
But the series of murder cases over the past few weeks are certainly of great concern, if not alarming.
Malaysians have a right to ask what the police are doing about the recent spate of crimes.
And what are the owners of shopping complexes doing next to ensure public safety beyond installing closed-circuit television and hiring security officers to go on patrol regularly?
Surveillance cameras need to be installed, not just at exit points to see whether we have paid our parking fees, but also in lifts, at staircases and corridors.
Deserted areas need to be actively patrolled, particularly after 9pm, to give a better sense of security to patrons of cinemas, food and beverage outlets.
More women security guards should also be hired to patrol basement car parks.
Greater surveillance, more security personnel and better lighting may mean higher costs but they will go a long way in establishing the reputation of a shopping complex among its customers.
Owners of hotels and commercial buildings should also take similar precautions as they, too, have huge basement car parks which are often poorly lit and deserted.
The owners of hotels, commercial buildings and shopping complexes should also consider hiring women guards who are prepared to accompany women to their cars on request.
Crime prevention often gets little attention from politicians but it has certainly become a serious concern and they had better listen more attentively from now.
Take the classic case of Petaling Jaya Utara MP Chew Mei Fun. Aware that PJ has the highest crime rate in Selangor, she launched a crime prevention campaign with the help of the police.
But on June 5, she ended up being a victim when burglars broke into her house and stole two VCD players, her piggy bank and prizes for a charity event she was organising.
A total of 11,856 criminal cases were reported in PJ between January and August last year. In KL, 9,312 cases were reported followed by Klang (8,325) and Sentul (7,339).
We are aware that there is a shortage of policemen in Malaysia. According to Chew, there is only one policeman to every 3,000 residents in PJ whereas in most cities in developed countries, the ratio is one officer to every 250 residents.
One way to attract more people to join the police force is to ensure that they get better salaries. With better perks, the force will attract better educated people and also prevent them from succumbing to corruption.
We will get to see a higher level of commitment in fighting crime instead of seeing them stopping motorcyclists and lorry drivers for minor traffic offences, arousing unnecessary suspicion on our part as to their intentions.
In Singapore, youths have to either join the army or the police force under the compulsory national service.
We should seriously adopt this method if we want to boost the numbers of the police force.
Our police have done well in fighting crime in this country but we can certainly make their job easier if the Government and public do their bit as well.
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