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Malaysian citizens keen to fight petty criminality in urban centres

While Malaysia is a charming country for a holiday with many sightseeing and activities to enjoy, endemic street crimes can spoil tourists’ discovery. Caution is really necessary, especially when walking at night in Kuala Lumpur.

KUALA LUMPUR- Despite being one of Southeast Asia’s wealthiest countries, petty criminality plagued most of Malaysia’s large cities and particularly Kuala Lumpur. Robbery with injuries, street attacks at night –especially bag’s snatching to women-, fill up newspapers on an almost daily basis. And unfortunately, tourists are not immune from criminal acts. At PATA last annual conference hosted at the Royale Chulan Hotel in the heart of the capital, each room had a crime-warning letter and a special card providing tips and phone numbers in case of any incident.

The government blamed for a long time foreigners working in Kuala Lumpur. But the drug scene in KL and some big cities –despite very strict laws for drug consumers including death penalty-is now recognized as the main problem for delinquency. Talking to news blog Khabar, a police colonel admits that 95% of violent acts are done by unemployed drug-addicted people.

Malaysia’s government has taken over the last decade measures to curb street crime. They are more police stations and police forces in city centres; public lighting has improved while CCTV networks equip now most big cities.

Polemics over criminality and its perception was back on the public stage last week –especially on social media which are less censored – following the assessment of Malaysia’s Home Minister Hishammuddin Tun Hussein. Taking to reporters during the two-day National Key Result Area (NKRA) Reducing Crime International Panel Review 2012, the Home Minister denied public claims that there is a surge in crime in the country. The Minister indicated that police records did not show any surge in crime as claimed by certain quarters. “The current public interest in crime has created a perception that crime is on the rise in the country, especially through social media,” he told.  

Hishammuddin said in reality, police efforts to reduce street crimes had been very effective and that less crime cases were being reported by the public. Official daily newspaper, the New Straits Times, reported a reduction in street crime in 2011. The statement supported by Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar, reported that crimes went down from 177,520 cases in 2010 to 157,891 cases last year.

A positive development is that communities and private interests try also to tackle criminality on their own. Malaysia’s community blog MARAH (an acronym standing for Malaysians Against Rape, Assault and Snatch but meaning “angry” in Malay language) has more than 2,500 members. On its blog, the group explains that although Malaysia’s crime rate has dropped by an impressive 39.7%. “Yet there are pockets of areas where the incidence of crime is high and criminals roam free and fearless,” says the blog which lists recent cases of women assaults and areas where bags’ snatch occur mostly. MARAH wants to create awareness for safer streets, car parks and neighbourhoods, and help identify perpetrators.

Tourist vigilance is then necessary when visiting Malaysia. For visitors, best is to leave jewels, money and passport in a safe box at the hotel (passport copy is useful in case of problem); to walk around with very little cash –to be put in a front pocket- and no ostentations signs of wealth (jewels, necklace, branded bags); avoid dark streets at night and stay mostly in area with a large number of people; be sure that no one stands behind when taking cash at an ATM. Avoid some areas such as Central Market and Pudu Bus Station in Kuala Lumpur city centre during night time–full of drug-addicted and thugs- and be cautious in some side streets of Bukit Bintang area, very popular with tourists.

According to MARAH, many crimes were reported along 1 Utama/IKANO Mega Mall/Taman Tun neighbourhood, all located in a quite wealthy area around Damansara Height, with many shopping malls. Precaution is then necessary!

The crime-warning letter in the rooms of Royale Bintang Hotel
The crime-warning letter in the rooms of Royale Chulan Hotel

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