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LOOKING OUT FOR ONE ANOTHER: Snatch thieves are riding high because we have allowed apathy to sink into society
FRIDAY turned out to be one of those days which left me feeling helpless. I was at a friend's house in Jalan Anak Gasing, in Section 6 in Petaling Jaya, for a belated celebration of my year-old daughter's birthday. At the end of the night, some time around 11pm, we were saying our goodbyes, standing in the kitchen.
My friend's daughter was about to send her cousin home, and both had walked out the gate to the car when they saw a motorcycle approaching slowly.
Feeling wary, they walked back to the gate but the motorcyclist stopped and his pillion rider rushed in and tried to grab their bags.
The first I knew of it was when I heard screaming. I looked out the kitchen window and saw a man hitting my friend's niece. Dropping everything, I ran out, as did everyone else. But we were too slow.
As soon as he saw us coming, the man ran and both he and his accomplice sped off on their motorcycle, empty-handed. We were not even able to catch the registration number on the bike.
We have much to be thankful for -- that the girls were alert enough to walk back, that the men didn't have parang or knives, that there were others around to scare them away.
Yet, I could not help but feel helpless. I felt as helpless as when my wife's handbag was snatched -- once in Petaling Jaya Old Town a few months back, and the other in Damansara Jaya years ago.
The second incident was horrifying as my wife was carrying our daughter, who was only a few months old at the time. What would have happened if my wife had been dragged? Both my wife and daughter might have been killed.
A few years ago, my cousin and aunt were slashed in front of my parents' house in Kelana Jaya. My cousin had held on to her bag and the snatch thieves stopped their motorcycle and took out their parang.
Not too long after that, my mother was walking home with two of my nieces when a snatch thief tried to grab her bag. She did the instinctive thing. She held on tightly to her bag.
The thief turned his motorcycle around, but my mother and nieces were quick to hide behind a car and the man gave up his search.
Each time, I felt helpless. Each time I thought to myself I could understand how some thieves, when caught, were beaten to bloody pulp, or even to death.
Don't get me wrong. I am not advocating violence. I am just saying I feel I can understand how the mob felt at the time.
How many times have we read about snatch theft victims who were injured badly? Or killed?
What has become of our beautiful country that snatch thefts are so common these days? Who do we blame, other than, obviously, the criminals themselves?
Do we blame the police for being unable to stop snatch thefts? No. They can't be everywhere all the time. There are only 100,000 policemen in the country, many of whom have desk jobs to perform.
If you were a snatch thief, you would obviously not try any stunts when the cops are around. And if the cops regularly patrol any one area, the thieves would just migrate to another area.
So who do we blame?
Perhaps ourselves. Or, rather, the apathy that we have allowed to sink into society.
How many of us would stop to help a person whose bag has just been snatched? How many of us would check to see what was happening if an alarm were to go off? How many of us would even stop to help after an accident?
Perhaps it is apathy which has allowed crime to become a problem for our nation, so much so that bringing the crime rate down has become a key performance indicator for the police force.
If we all were to look out for each other, perhaps we can bring the crime rate down. Perhaps we should have that as a KPI.
When the police first came up with the idea of Rakan Cop, they said it was because we citizens were the eyes and ears of the force. It is time we were exactly that.
No. No lynch mobs nor vigilantes. Just regular people looking out for other regular people. Just Malaysians being regular Malaysians.