Johor police on Sunday sought to quash the "exaggerated" perception that the state is unsafe, and that the Malaysian authorities were sloppy.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Abdul Aziz Ahmad said crime rates in Johor are on track to fall by 7.4 per cent this year from around 19,000 cases last year - an improvement from 26,624 in 2008.
He added that of the 19,000 cases last year, "only" less than 500 involved Singaporeans. This was despite the 17 million Singaporean entries to Johor last year, said the ACP, who is head of administration at the police headquarters in Johor Baru.
He was speaking at a crime prevention talk organised by the Johor-Singapore Community Care Association in JB.
During the lively hour-long address, ACP Abdul Aziz maintained that it was impossible to achieve zero crime. But he conceded that 70 per cent of crime in the state occurs in JB, its capital.
"People are coming in for better living, and for all types of investment," he said.
"We're having a conflict between prosperity and security."
After Johor was identified as a "hot spot state" for crime in 2009, with Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Selangor, RM2 billion (S$784 million) was pumped into Johor by the Malaysian government to beef up the police force.
Now, there are 8,675 policemen - one for 663 people, said the ACP. Nearly 5,700 auxiliary police have also been trained.
Since Aug 17, Johor police involved in a nationwide crime crackdown operation dubbed Ops Cantas have also screened 232,000 suspected gang members. Of these, more than 4,000 were arrested.
But high-profile cases continue to haunt JB, such as one in July last year when armed kidnappers drove off with members of Singaporean entrepreneur Rita Zahara's family in her car.
The four victims, who included her two children, were released unhurt, but the kidnappers took the car and valuables. These were later recovered.
"All cases involving Singaporeans are high profile, because we make it high by having an ASP (Assistant Superintendent of Police) to investigate," said the ACP. "In Malaysia, each ASP is in command of 600 men. And one ASP is assigned for one case. I am not emotional, but I am trying to make a comparison. And our officers are no joke, you know."
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