PETALING JAYA - Battling the perception that the country is unsafe is the most immediate task for the Bukit Aman Crime Prevention and Community Safety Department.
The department was established in 2014 with the main objective of creating and executing crime prevention initiatives and to increase the perception of safety amongst the public.
It does so by actively engaging with the public constantly, be it via formal outreach programmes or having officers mingle with the public to get a better feel of the situation on the ground.
The department's current director Comm Datuk Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani admitted that the police could never completely stop people from living in fear of crime.
"People still have a fear of crime (occurring) within their surroundings even though, in reality, we are still enjoying relatively safe surroundings.
"We cannot stop people from having those feelings but we will strive to ensure that the security and safety of this country is well under control," he said.
Comm Acryl Sani, however, noted that the public has played its part in working with the police in keeping the surroundings safe and actively making it harder for potential crime to occur.
"From what we observe, people are more aware and vigilant of their surroundings.
"If you observe most of the residential areas, you can see that the back lanes of houses are gated to make it harder for the perpetrator to have a 'field day'. Some of the newest malls even have panic buttons.
"We cannot prevent people from having the desire to commit crime but we can stop them from acting on it by working together (with the community)," said Comm Acryl Sani.
And the fight against crime is not just patrolling the streets or reducing the opportunity of crime from occurring.
The department constantly reaches out to the community to educate the public.
"It is very comprehensive. We are covering the schools, residential associations and especially the womenfolk. We are also engaging with other agencies like religious institutions, not only the mosques but the temples and churches as well.
"Our elements on the ground, especially those on foot patrol, also meet with the people as they are conducting their duties," said Comm Acryl Sani.
Crime is not just fought by the men in blue; it is a collaborative effort by both the public and the police. The officers in the Bukit Aman Crime Prevention and Community Safety Department (JPJKK) fight that battle by working hand in hand with the common folk. Its director Comm Datuk Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani speaks to The Star in conjunction with the 209th Police Day, touching on the very real fight against perception, working with the people and future projects.
Q: What is the perception of fear of crime amongst the public so far?
A: The perception index among the public in regards to security and safety against crime is not what we were expecting. But over the years, since 2009 when the Prime Minister introduced the NKRA (National Key Results Area) we have seen the crime index statistic go down to almost 40 per cent. In my personal view, you can never wipe out a person's perception (of crime). It could be due to a person's personal experience on being a victim of crime. Most of the time, people hear stories of their colleagues, friends or neighbours who have been victims of crime. They might not be the victims themselves but the stories they hear, this creates a sense of uneasiness. But there is one good thing having this perception if you look at it from a positive angle. The people are always vigilant and more aware, rather than them taking things lightly.
Q:Social media has played a big part in delivering news to the public. But there have been numerous instances where half-truths and unverified news have created fear and panic amongst the public. Do you feel these also attributed to the level of perception?
A: Definitely. There are already so many incidences where what they see on social media is not what is really happening. Some of these posters also have nothing better to do; they recycle old stories. We continuously tell the public to get the real story from the authorities. Yes I can understand it is quite hard for us to convince the public. But if we persevere over time then definitely one day.
Q: How easy or hard is it to work with the community in crime prevention? Are both parties on the same page most of the time?
A: Despite stories that we heard that the community is indifferent towards the authorities, most of the time when we go down and meet them, they are very warm towards us. They are very welcoming to any programs between the community and the police. If we read on social media, it's as though the public despises the police. But the reality is that when we go down, not even once have we been coldly welcomed.
Q: There have been cases where civilians take the law into their own hands, sometimes going too far. What do you think can be done to curb this and your views?
A: Education. This kind of vigilantism shouldn't be happening in our country. We have heard stories of road accidents that turn into mobs and people getting caught for snatch thefts being beaten half conscious when they are handed over to the police. This is not the way a society should be working. We encourage the public to assist the police but we always stress to the public to be mindful on the ways you handle these kinds of people. Of course sometimes it is difficult to overcome your emotions, but you have to have self-restraint.
Q: What are examples of the community initiatives by JPJKK?
A: We have our own initiative called Amanita. These are all policewomen personnel who engage the womenfolk. Their objective is to educate them on their rights if they get abused as well on how to keep themselves safe on the streets.
We also have the Program Remaja Berwawasan. This is another programme under the National Blue Ocean Strategy in which the police and the military will go down to the schools and get them to send in students who find difficulty in adjusting to the school's environment. We expose them to programs to give them more self-confidence and to tell them that there is always hope (for them) to be someone better. They can see things from a different perspective. The impacts of these programs for the past two years have been very positive.
Though our main objective is enforcing the law, we are also going to the public, engaging them and letting them know that we too are a part of the public. We are not an entity on our own. We are with the public and the public must also be with the police. That is why the IGP is very affectionate with our tagline that is "polis dan masyarakat berpisah tiada" (the police and public in unison). Togetherness.
Q: Are there any future projects that JPJKK has in the works?
A: We are embarking on a Modern Policing initiative with the assistance of Pemandu. Our final outcome is to have our police force be a world-class organisation. We are going to fully utilize technology is our day-to-day tasks. It is something very ambitious but we are 100 per cent committed in achieving that goal. Currently we embarking (the initiative) in the Brickfields and TTDI stations. (In those stations) we are going to have two thirds of the establishment fully committed to crime prevention and community engagement. Hopefully it will take-off this April.