The Star Opinion: Burgled Despite The Precautions


Yesterday it was the Sun; today the Star carries my letter. A welcome boost to my spirits at a somewhat down time.

It’s a piece about my recent brush with violent crime, and how absically nothing seems to be able to be done about it. Read it here:  http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2007/1/25/focus/16667961&sec=focus

 BurgledScott1

BurgledScott2

The original full version that I sent in is as follows, with the parts the Star removed in bold. More poetic I feel, but also more morose and hoepelessness-invoking. I mean, the title alone would scare tourists off!

But by removing those very parts, they changed the slant of my letter: That criminals in JB seem to act with impunity and fearlessness. They seem to rule the streets at night. We, the upright citizens, are the ones who must skulk around and hide!

By removing the strong words and vivid imagery, they effectively neutered my persuasive powers to a great extent.

My aim had been to stir up public emotion – sympathy, outrage, trepidation – at the fact that criminals are now so brazen. The power of carefully chosen words… Ah, well.

Oh, but not to seem ungrateful! Kudos to The Star for printing my letter and the ones before!

But as long as something comes from this, I’ll be glad. It’s all in Your hands now, LORD. (It’s always been.)

——–

Johor Bahru: City of Criminals

A year ago, I moved to Johor Bahru for my job. I had heard plenty of warnings about the crime rate here. Having stayed in JB for a few months, these warnings became much more real as people I personally knew encountered car theft, burglary and even rape.

So I took all the necessary precautions. A steering lock for my car. Avoiding dark, lonely places at night. Keeping alert even when in seemingly safe areas. But as it turns out, I wasn’t nearly paranoid enough!

Recently, robbers broke into the house where I rented a room. They ripped the entire metal door off its hinges, robbed me at machete point and scooted off while the house alarm blared. It took less than five minutes.

After all my staying sharp and keeping on my toes, I was robbed in my own house at a time when I’m sound asleep! There was nothing I could have done to prevent it. The only safe place, a fortress of steel and bricks, was no longer safe.

The police duly took down the report, but couldn’t promise much. After all, the area I stayed in was (and I quote) “Famous for break-ins” and a place where “Robberies happen every day”.

Get that: Robberies every day. The police basically feel overwhelmed by the heart-attack inducing crime rate!

And the scary thing is… It’s so true! A gang of robbers can loot five houses and disappear before the police even arrive. Burglars can target the same housing area over and over, breaking through each successively upgraded security measure.

One word neatly sums up the attitude of criminals in Johor Bahru: Impunity.

After all, what can be done about it? Can the Government allocate more funds for the police force? Increase the salary for the lowest paid recruits so they aren’t so underpaid? Increase the number of night patrols to make it harder for criminals to carry on fearlessly?

The thinnest veil of sanity keeps us from giving in to the fear and helplessness of the situation! Police, Government, NGOs… Won’t someone, anyone do something to save us?!

Not very likely. People have complained about JB’s crime rate for years. Why should this year bring any difference? The police force is kept at the status quo while the criminals improve and multiply. And thus: Impunity.

My landlady has hired an armed guard to watch her house through the night. I myself have since moved to an apartment with a guard service – all the cases I know of happen at landed properties. Several neighborhoods have their own Rukun Tetangga style night patrols.

Perhaps that is the only solution, every man for himself and every neighborhood for itself, since the police force cannot be everywhere at once. Thus the families of Johor Bahru by neccessity adopt a siege mentality every night, while predators aggressively prowl their back lanes.

Sometimes I wonder if we law-abiding citizens truly are the minority, in a city ruled by crime.

SCOTT THONG YU YUEN

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