Keeping families safe in homes and towns

We have just celebrated our 56th Sarawak Independence Day — or is it Sarawak Day?

I think we should celebrate Sarawak Day on Sept 24 as this was when in 1841, Brunei ceded Sarawak to Sir James Brooke and it became a separate entity and nation. This would mean Sarawak is 178 years old this year, indeed an old, historic and established entity.

Much has been said about our Sarawak rights and our right to autonomy and self-determination. These are all noteworthy aspirations and many of us have long been its strong advocates. We must carry on pursuing these aspirations with full rigour, perseverance and determination.

However, there is another aspect of Sarawak that is of much concern to its citizens on a day to day basis. We want to have a secure and safe environment for our families and ourselves in our villages, towns and cities.

While the attention of some of us is on politics and autonomy, many citizens are increasingly being bombarded with news about snatch thefts, robberies and rampant drug use.

We also seem to be going through a period of where groups of youths on motorbikes are not only being a nuisance but also a danger to many road users with their antics at all times of the evening and into the early hours of the morning.

Such types of undesirable activities seem to be occurring daily.

For those who can afford it, they are installing CCTVs in their homes and dash cams in their cars and building ever higher walls around their houses.

I suppose gone are the days when we use to leave our gates open at all times. It is not surprising that those who can afford it are opting for houses in gated communities with private security. But how about the rest of us?

We now have to be extra vigilant and take precautions ourselves. This is a reasonable approach and is our responsibility to the changing times.

However, there is only so much we can do. The relevant authorities and agencies still need to carry out their duties. So what exactly is being done about our safety and security?

Ideally, enforcement should emphasise on deterrence and prevention of crime. Once a crime is committed, a victim undergoes much pain and mental anguish and help from enforcement agencies can be deemed to be too little, too late.

Therefore, I am sure all of you would agree that more resources and emphasis should be placed on preventive and deterrent measures. Enforcement activities of such a nature would be the best approach and yield more effective and desirable outcomes.

There have of course been many measures and campaigns over the years, all related to keeping our cities and towns safe, albeit in short spurts and there have been some which are more gimmick-based rather than substance.

It would be good if these security and safety campaigns were higher in profile and done on a more sustainable basis.

I remember several years ago that for a while, we did have some very high profile multi-agency approach to policing (if I remember correctly, comprising the police, Rela, civil defence and the General Operations Force) especially in hot spots around towns and cities.

This was a very good and proactive approach as it gave many of us a comfortable feeling that our security and safety was of prime concern to the government. It was also very effective in reducing the crime rate, especially in public and commercial areas.

But after the then elections were over, this much appreciated and effective ‘boots on the ground’ policing fizzled out and the snatch thefts etc increased again.

It seems we are good at launching safety and security campaigns, but not so good at maintaining them.

The introduction of a comprehensive CCTV system in our towns and cities seems to have slowed down as well.

We need more patrols. Perhaps it is a budget and manpower issue. Whatever it is, action needs to be taken.

It is important that our federal government comes up with better measures to reduce crime and enhance safety.

The federal government needs to give more attention to everyday bread and butter issues such as education, health, safety and security.

I hope our federal politicians can put on their pants, get out of their bedrooms and start working for the people.

Our chief minister has made it clear that Sarawak has to start taking care of itself and not rely on others anymore.

Perhaps Sarawak-based enforcement agencies can be set up to complement the federal ones. One way forward would be to expand the role of local authority enforcement to include community policing.

More importantly, actions need to be seen and results need to be produced.

Autonomy is good and much desired, but together with it, we Sarawakians need a crime-free environment.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.