Tue, 25 Feb 2003

Don't leave your maid at home alone: Police

Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak and Novan Iman Santosa, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The lesson to be learned from a recent string of robberies involving maids seems clear: Know who you are employing before leaving them home alone with the silverware.

The latest incident took place on Sunday when a maid going by the name Hanifah, 16, ran off with Rp 40 million (US$4,495) in cash and a mobile phone belonging to South Korean national Lee Uk-ja, 50, who had hired Hanifah only three days earlier.

Lee, who works as a chef at a Korean restaurant, had been alone at her rented house in Rawa Barat, South Jakarta, for the last two weeks after her husband Lee Jung-ki returned to South Korea for business.

Lee hired Hanifah to help her around the house, but due to language differences knew nothing about her background. The police are currently checking on Hanifah's address.

City police spokesman Sr. Comr. Prasetyo said a lack of regulations prevented the authorities from maintaining stringent control over maid and nanny supply agencies.

"Firm regulations would help the public and us assess the credibility of both the agencies and the workers," he told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

The officer said the police had handled numerous robberies where agencies had installed a maid in a household targeted for robbery.

Police recently broke up a criminal syndicate that specialized in robberies by dishonest maids.

Prasetyo advised people who used manpower agencies always to ask for the maid's identity card issued by the administration in her hometown, and to check her place of domicile and family background, crucial information often not provided by agencies.

Tien A.R., owner of the manpower agency Jasa Abadi Foundation in Cipulir, South Jakarta, agreed that this kind of screening was essential.

"We do our best to ensure that we get all of their background information, such as who their parents are, where they live and so on," Tien told the Post.

She said her foundation cooperated with local authorities from a job seeker's hometown to gather the information.

"We prefer those who come from faraway villages rather than those who hold a Jakarta ID, since the latter tend to falsify their addresses and are difficult to trace," Tien said.

She also suggested people hire maids and nannies from reliable agencies.

"Don't take your friends' or families' advice for granted. It is always better to do your own checking.

"It is also recommended that you visit the agency or foundation to check on their credibility," she said.

Personal contact is essential to build a mutual confidence between employer and worker, she added.

Tien said the increasing number of manpower agencies and foundations was the likely cause for the upswing in robbery by maid, because the increased competition made some agencies less inclined to thoroughly investigate job seekers.

"I am quite concerned by these cases and to learn that there are unscrupulous maids and nannies roaming the city," she said.