Malaysia’s path to prosperity over the last decade was also accompanied by a rise in street crimes. According to local newspapers, crime rate in the country increased from less than 70,000 in the early nineties to some 225,000 in year 2007. In the last five years, the trend even accelerated.
Until recently, one would just had to open a Malaysian newspaper to know that something was going wrong in Kuala Lumpur. Almost every day, they were stories related to crime events in Malaysia’s largest city with girls being victims of bag snatching, shop robberies, tugs harassing or taking the money of customers. Particularly affected by rampant petty crimes were some of KL major tourist areas such as Bukit Bintang or Jalan Pudu where KL main bus station is located.
The reputation of KL is largely suffering from these repeated unfortunate events affecting above all locals but also visitors.
The feeling of being unsafe was becoming such an acute problem that Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak promised in its government’s speech to tackle street crimes seriously and reduce by 20 percent the number of cases by the end of next year.
A special unit of 800 policemen is now patrolling 24 hours a day in the streets of Kuala Lumpur, especially in 11 areas considered as major scenes for criminality. The 11 major crime areas include Bukit Bintang, Pudu, Brickfields –the Indian area around KL Central Station, among others.
The Ministry of Interior has also announced to prosecute criminals through the formation of special courts for street crime cases.
Tests of the new police force unit in the district of Bandar Sri Permaisuri already translated into a sharp reduction in street crime.
Hopefully, a similar result will be achieved citywide. So far, KL’s crime rate declined by 19 percent from January to May 2009, due to more arrests and severe penalties.
Then, the government will have to tackle KL’s bigger dangers for tourists: the infamous taxi drivers. KL taxis are probably the worst and often the most aggressive in Southeast Asia with visitors most likely to become victims of their cheating. But so far, no government has been able to seriously resolve the issue until today. Another task for the new prime minister?