Wed, 22 Nov 2000

Four crime-prone areas to be targeted

JAKARTA (JP): Among a number of major areas of concern which have emerged in the last six months, there are at least four areas of criminality to which the police have yet to give proper attention.

The first is order and security on trains, particularly those in the Jakarta, Bogor, Tangerang and Bekasi areas.

Hundreds of thousands of people, particularly those in the lower income brackets, commute by train on a daily basis and are driven to making constant complaints not only about the poor service but, more importantly, about poor security. Unfortunately, the security problems have been prevalent for too long now and have, seemingly, come to be considered as normal.

The second area of concern is order and security on city buses and at bus terminals. A Jakarta Police report says that in the first six months of this year alone, 105 criminal incidents took place on city buses and at bus terminals.

This shows a significant increase of 45 percent over the figure recorded for the same period in 1999. Again, the police have not done much to deal with these cases.

The third problematic area is security at sea. Illegal fishing by foreign trawlers, oil smuggling which has disrupted oil distribution at home and the seizing of a number of vessels carrying artifacts illegally retrieved from shipwrecks are just a few examples of how security at sea is yet to receive proper attention from the police.

It is true that the navy is also responsible for keeping watch over maritime security, but this does not mean that the police should simply leave matters to the navy.

Unfortunately, naval vessels have often been found to back up smuggling, one of the reasons why the police find it difficult to thoroughly deal with such cases and therefore seem to turn a blind eye to the matter.

The fourth area concerns the protection of forests. Illegal felling by locals and outsiders is taking place almost every day in the many forests of Sumatra, Kalimantan and even Java. This is a very difficult problem to solve and it has inflicted great losses on the state.

The police should no longer entrust forest rangers to take care of forests as the rangers have a rather poor record of achievement. Illegal felling by non-locals is by no means a new problem but only recently have the public and the police shown an interest in it. In this regard, it is only proper to raise questions about the integrity and public accountability of forest rangers.

Activists at Polwatch believe that apart from the government, the community has the largest potential, resources and responsibility to help the police overcome their constraints.

The police have often involved the community in the maintenance of order and security: nightwatch in villages, citizens' band radio activities to overcome traffic congestion during the Muslim Lebaran post-fasting festivities, and the establishment of task force units to provide security during general elections are a few examples of that involvement.

Often, however, such participation only helps to resolve problems partially. How do we ensure effective and efficient community participation in maintaining order and security?

The police need a wider-range of support, particularly to overcome order and security disturbances which have assumed a greater level of complexity and multidimensionality. A new format of involvement must be sought, one which is oriented more towards the solution of problems in a holistic and directed manner.

The police must first be open. They should provide the community with access to increased and more varied information about how cases are handled, as long as this conforms with the prevailing laws and does not disrupt the law enforcement process.

University students undertaking their working stints, for example, could be involved in the conducting of investigations. This involvement would reduce the work load of the police and at the same time allow the community to learn about and indirectly monitor how an investigation process is proceeding. When later some of them join the police, they will no longer feel awkward and confused.

Community participation in such activities is not new. In Argentina and Chile, for example, the community and the police have a common agenda in undertaking joint patrols. In Hongkong, through the Independent Police Complaints' Committee (IPCC), the community plays a role in determining whether institutional cooperation between the community and the police should be continued or otherwise.

Polwatch believes there are five prerequisites for sustainable and effective cooperation between the police and the community. These are as follows: 1) bottom-up planning; 2) a multi-level approach; 3) equality in membership; 4) a self-supporting basis; and 5) supremacy of the law and law enforcement.

The fulfillment of these five prerequisites will ensure that the cooperation program being fostered will achieve its targets, namely order and security and the restoration of public confidence in the law and the law enforcement institutions, particularly the National Police. (Adnan Pandupraja)