Ma hails significant drop in crime rates

TAIPEI - President Ma Ying-jeou said yesterday that crime rates in the country have dropped significantly, lauding the Ministry of the Interior and the National Police Agency for their efforts.

Ma, who doubles as Kuomintang chairman, made the comments at the ruling party's weekly Central Standing Committee meeting in which Interior Minister Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) gave a report on crime prevention.

The Interior Ministry's insistence that mayors and magistrates personally host their local governments' crime prevention meetings every month has led to significant results, the president said, adding that the local government chiefs' personal attention to crime prevention is key to reducing crime.

After hearing Lee's report, Ma said that the public is very concerned about criminal offences, because crime affects not only the lives of citizens but also the nation's economic development.

The president explained that crime rates have gradually decreased and that clearance rates have gradually increased.

Cross-strait Crime

The president said that before he took office, cross-strait fraud was a very serious problem, and that the number of cases reached an apex in 2006, involving more than 40,000 criminals who had cheated people out of NT$18.5 billion.

Last year, the number of criminals involved in cross-strait fraud had decreased to roughly 20,000, while the amount of ill-gotten gains had decreased to roughly NT$4 billion, Ma said.

One of the important factors behind the decreases was the signing and implementation of the cross-strait joint crime prevention pact, the president said, adding that prior to the improvement of cross-strait ties, criminals would flee to mainland China, thinking that they would be safe.

After cross-strait police authorities began cooperating, police are now able to apprehend fugitives even if fugitives flee to countries in Southeast Asia, Ma said.

So far, more than 5,000 suspects have been arrested due to cross-strait joint investigations, Ma added.

Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

The president said that after police authorities began cracking down on DUI cases in June last year, the number of DUI-related deaths decreased to 376 in the same year, nearly half the number of DUI-related deaths recorded in 2006, which was the highest ever.

Ma added, however, that the administration is not satisfied with the results.

This year the Ministry of Justice increased DUI penalties, whereas the Ministry of Transportation and Communications decreased the breath alcohol content required for prosecution, from 0.55 to 0.25 milligrams per liter, the president said, adding that although DUI arrests have decreased, the number of prosecutions have increased.

If drivers refuse to take a breathalyzer test, prosecutors have the right to demand a blood test, Ma explained.

Although DUI-related deaths have decreased overall in the nation, there have been increases in some cities and counties, Ma said, urging local authorities to step up their efforts.