PETALING JAYA - Their stomachs may be growling but more Malaysians are forgoing late night suppers and staying indoors due to safety concerns.
University student Joseph Gan, for instance, prefers to hang out at friends' houses these days rather than go out for a teh tarik in the middle of the night.
"I used to lepak at the nasi kandar shops in Bangsar because of the ambience but now my friends and I just gather at each other's place," said the 22-year-old.
"Our regular makan place is no longer happening, and too quiet," he said. "The girls, especially, are scared to come out."
Retiree K. Balan, 61, from Batu Caves, said he would only dine out late at night if he was with a group of friends.
"I won't go out alone. I am too afraid. Look at the number of shootings that have been reported recently," he said.
"If you look at our nasi kandar stalls, most are almost empty after 9pm."
Penangite Ang Bah Nee, 30, said her favourite economy rice seller, near the former Sia Boey market in George Town, no longer opens till the wee hours of the morning.
"My friends and I used to go there at 3am after clubbing, but these days it's closed as early as 10.30pm," she said.
"Now I'm in bed by midnight, so no more heavy suppers. Besides safety concerns, dining late is not healthy," she said.
A check by The Star in the Klang Valley revealed that some popular late night eating spots in Kota Damansara, Kelana Jaya, SS2, Section 17, Cheras, Old Klang Road and Bangsar, were pulling in smaller crowds after 10pm, even on the eve of public holidays and weekends.
A coffeeshop worker in Section 14 said that unlike before, walk-in customers after 10pm were rare.
"We open from 6am until 1am but one big group of ladies, who usually come over after their nightly aerobics exercises, is noticeably absent," she said.
"A few months ago, we heard that a coffeeshop nearby was robbed twice by parang-wielding men at closing time. Maybe, people are afraid," she added.
Psychologist and criminologist Dr Geshina Ayu Mat Saat said fear of crime might affect quality of life as it restricted people's movements and activities.
"This will subsequently affect their physical, social and emotional well-being," said Dr Geshina, who is from Universiti Sains Malaysia's Forensic Science Programme.
"Victims of crime may be negatively affected in a variety of ways, including developing an increased fear of crime and having a negative perception of others," he said.
"Those who witness, hear or read about crime may also develop similar fears."
On the positive side, the Malaysian Association for the Study of Obesity vice-president Prof Dr Norimah A. Karim believed that if Malaysians stayed away from late night suppers, it could help reduce the country's obesity problem.
"At the rate Malaysians eat, they definitely do not need to have supper," she said. "One of the main causes of obesity is people habitually having heavy suppers when they should be sleeping."