Sat, 15 Jan 2000

National Police urged to deploy more officers

By Maria Endah Hulupi

JAKARTA (JP): Two leading criminologists have blamed the National Police for its inability to cope with the rising crime rate in the capital, saying more police personnel were needed to guard crime-prone areas to ensure the safety of the people.

Mulyana W. Kusumah and Harkristuti Harkrisnowo called on the city police to deploy more officials in Tanah Abang and Senen bus terminals as well as in the Cempaka Putih area in Central Jakarta, where street violence often takes place.

Holdups and extortion carried out by numerous gangs in those areas have raised public concern recently following reports that many people had been threatened to hand over their valuables after thugs broke the windows of their cars.

Most of the incidents took place at crossroads when traffic lights turned red, the reports, quoting victims and witnesses, said, noting that the crime rate increase markedly due to the absence of police officials in those areas.

Both criminologists told The Jakarta Post that this new trend of crime -- in which the crooks armed themselves with sharp weapons, such as axes, rather than guns -- had given birth to a group of people who seemed to justify violence to maintain their survival at a time of economic crisis which began to hit the county in late 1997.

"Unlike professional criminals who usually plan and use guns in their operations, these "seasonal" crooks carry out their actions without planning to achieve their goals, which sometimes end up in violence."

Commenting on a police statement that they had a shortage of personnel to cover crime-ridden spots in the capital, Harkristuti said that it was an unacceptable excuse as it was the responsibility of the government and law enforcement officials to protect the safety and security of the country's citizens.

"This is because the government pays too much attention to human rights violations in the country's troubled provinces that have attracted international attention, causing the government to neglect the rising local criminal cases," she explained.

Mulyana said the failure to resolve criminal cases in the country had created public uncertainty over security-related issues, prompting them to question the credibility of the law enforcement agencies, including the ability of the National Police force.

Armed civilians

As a result, many people had armed themselves with blades and guns for self-defense, he said, adding that "when people try to take the law into their own hands, the tend to overreact and violate existing laws."

To prevent such a situation, Mulyana suggested that police officials had to enhance their professionalism and resources despite their meager budget.

Harkristuti said that it was high time for the police to restore its already tainted image following the shooting of students by police officials during last year's demonstrations for a reformation of the government.

"By doing so, the police could restore its image as a trusted law enforcement body and could crack down on crime and protect the safety of the people," she added.

Rusdi, an employee of a private company, said each time he drove through a crime-prone area, he would make sure all doors were locked to avoid assault by the thugs.

Lita, a house wife who drives herself to her office, said she would rather give her things to the thugs when the situation endangered her safety.