PETALING JAYA: Tontos – men who trail enforcement officers to tip off traffic wrongdoers – are going out of fashion. But it’s not exactly good news for the authorities.
Errant lorry drivers have resorted to smarter ways to evade the authorities. And there is nothing the enforcement officers can do about it. There’s no law against mobile apps.
Rather than relying on the hired thugs for information on the authorities’ whereabouts and operations, lorry drivers have resorted to mobile applications like Zello and WeChat to share updates.
Zello is a push-to-talk or a walkie-talkie application which allows for live communication while WeChat is a messaging application with voice messaging features.
While a walkie-talkie’s range is up to more than 50km, there are no such limitations on the smartphone applications as they are accessible anywhere, requiring only Internet connection or a mobile data plan.
Some of the channels on Zello brazenly include the word “tonto” in their channel names, disregarding the possibility that authorities would be able to snoop on them.
The Star joined several tonto and lorry driver channels on Zello which provides live updates across the country.
Among the constant updates in the channels were the movements and locations of Road Transport Department (JPJ) and police personnel, and the locations of roadblocks.
“Highway Kesas jaga-jaga. Dua biji baru masuk. (Those on the Kesas Highway beware. Two JPJ cars just went on the highway),” someone updated in the group yesterday.
Another user in a different channel told lorry drivers who were about to drive to Balakong to stop and park by the side of the road as there was a JPJ roadblock.
Another channel believed to be operated by a tonto gave updates on a JPJ vehicle he was tailing, the registration plate, the vehicle occupants’ lunch hour and even the time the vehicle hit the road again.
There are at least 30 channels set up by lorry drivers and tontos for the sole purpose of getting and sharing information on roadblocks and the whereabouts of the authorities.
One of the largest channels caters to 34,000 users with some 150 of them online at any one time.
There are groups dedicated to individual states and also for the entire peninsula, making it easier for lorry drivers who have to travel on interstate highways.
There are also quite a number of exclusive channels. Operated by tontos, they require passwords.
JPJ director-general Datuk Seri Nadzri Siron said tontos still existed, although on a smaller scale, following the success of Ops Cantas Khas Tonto last year, a joint operation by the JPJ and police.
The operation which began on April 26 last year saw the arrests of 15 tonto syndicate masterminds and the seizure of 13 vehicles.
They were charged under the Prevention of Crime Act (Poca).
The most dramatic raid took place when the tontos were lured to the Awan Besar Rest and Recreation area on the Kesas Highway in Selangor and then trapped when a police helicopter landed there.
“We know the tontos are still around but they are using a different modus operandi. Now they use smartphone apps like Zello. We will be monitoring them and their flow of information,” he said.
Nadzri added that JPJ was also looking into ways to have more effective enforcement through technology.
Asked if the JPJ could take action against those who shared updates on its operations and roadblocks, Nadzri said there was no law against that.
A Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission source said that applications like Zello posed a new challenge to enforcement agencies as there was no law to counter the problem.
“You have people posting about roadblocks on Facebook, but they can’t be arrested. Even on Waze, there’s a way of sharing police locations,” he said.
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