The police cannot be everywhere,and so USJ 18 residents have taken the initiative to set up a neighbourhood watch to actively combat crime in their area,reports IVY SOON.
THE gates are all locked, and few residents are seen outside their houses in the quiet neighbourhood of USJ18 in Selangor. However, there is little that happens here that goes unreported. People here are ever alert for suspicious characters and behaviour, and inform each other of what they have seen; for instance, the two well-dressed men in a blue Proton Wira, who drove up and down the street eight times, or the two young men circling their area on a yellow motorcycle.
The residents’ instincts have been honed by their active involvement in the community’s Neighbourhood Watch, a programme aimed at enlisting the active support and participation of all residents, in cooperation with local police, to reduce the opportunity for crimes to happen.
“In 1999, the Subang Jaya Municipal Council wanted to raise our assessment rate, and we needed to rally everyone to protest against the hike. Our concern over crime was a good rallying point. That was how we started USJ 18 Neighbourhood Watch (USJ NWatch),” recounted Raymond Tan, one of the pioneers of USJ 18 NWatch.
“We began by patrolling the street we lived on, and slowly others joined in.’’
Residents take turns to patrol their neighbourhood from 2am to 5am because these are the hours that thieves are most likely to strike.
“There are altogether about 500 houses with 12 streets in USJ 18, and we divided the NWatch into two zones. Every street has a leader. We have regular patrollers from over half the households here,” said USJ 18 NWatch chairman Yin Tin Fatt.
Yin said that crimes in their area have lessened because the residents watch out for one another, even when they are not on their patrolling duties.
Since patrolling started, USJ 18 recorded five cases of night burglaries last year, compared to 200 in the entire USJ area. In 2001, there was one case of night burglary in USJ 18 compared to 228 in the USJ district.
“There is more interaction between the neighbours now, and we know one another better. So, if I happen to pass by my neighbour’s house and see that his gate is open, I could call him,” said Yin.
There is no mistaking the USJ 18 NWatch committee members’ enthusiasm. They take pride in their active role in keeping their neighbourhood safe, while developing close ties with one another.
“A resident only needs to patrol three hours in a month. We have some very committed patrollers. There are people who take half-day leave so that they could patrol. Another resident who works in Genting Highlands never fails to turn up for his patrolling duties,” Yin said.
During their patrols, either on foot, on bicycle, or in cars (depending on the weather), the residents basically watch out for suspicious characters or activities. They check that cars are locked, and close gates that have been left open. Sometimes, they would advise house owners to trim trees or bushes that make good hideouts for thieves.
The USJ 18 women have also started patrolling their neighbourhood in the afternoons following a spate of snatch thefts and break-ins in their area.
“Some areas choose to hire security guards to patrol their neighbourhood. Collection is a problem, but more than that is the level of commitment. Residents here are committed because we are ensuring the safety of our homes. Of course, we also have to be careful about being complacent.
“And we have to keep checking ourselves to keep motivated. But attendance rate for patrolling has been quite good lately, although we have our high and low periods,’’ said Simon Leong, who draws up the patrolling schedule each month. He is also constantly motivating his neighbours to join the NWatch.
Although they carry bats and sticks, NWatch members are not supposed to confront criminals, but to alert the local police, with whom they have worked hard to establish good rapport.
During festivals, residents who plan to leave town are encouraged to register with the police.
“All residents have to do is to fill up a form and hand it in to the police. The police would then come around and check on these empty houses, and leave notes in the mailboxes stating when they have made their rounds.
“One family who registered and then changed their minds about balik kampung was questioned by the police to ascertain that they were the rightful occupants,” said Tan.
Every third week of the month, USJ18 residents receive a newsletter informing them of the happenings in their neighbourhood.
There is also a crime watch listing out the various crimes that have taken place in the USJ area so that residents are aware of the local crime situation.
The group also maintains a website which informs residents about what is going on in their neighbourhood. A detailed weekly crime watch is included.
On the website and newsletter, residents are informed of incidents and suspicious characters lurking in the neighbourhood.
In the past, residents were informed about an elderly Indonesian man heard chatting up children at the playground, a man driving a blue Proton Saga taking photographs of houses, and the two uniformed men who told a maid to hand them her owner’s car keys so they could service the car.
Residents are also educated on how to spot suspicious behaviour, such as a car being towed from the rear at odd hours.
The website and newsletter also serve as community forums where residents can warn each other of dishonest plumbers or unethical practices in restaurants. There is also a crime prevention tip each day.
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