Saturday, May 12, 2012

Security at what cost?

WHAT does it take to build a city a simple, functional spot under the sun that draws people in and provides enough for them to build a home, find work and enjoy all that is within their resources to enjoy?
Let's forget about phrases like “world class city” or “state-of-the-art city”. These are just empty phrases that do not mean anything. There are many components that go towards building a city security, clean air and water, healthcare, education, a city employment opportunities, public transport and other services. The list can be a lenghthy one.
But let's just focus on security, which is likened to a roof over our heads. The roof keeps out the rain and other elements. There is no point in having a leaky roof.
Of late, we read constantly about crime being reduced. But while there are statistics that point to this, we feel no safer than before.
Last Thursday, the country rejoiced when 12-year-old Nayati Moodliar was reunited with his parents after going missing for a week. Many missing children either end up dead, or continue to be separated from their loved ones.
His abduction prompted the introduction of new measures like putting up closed-circuit television surveillance cameras (CCTVs) around school premises. Mont'Kiara, which comprises predominantly high density condominium products, is known for its layers of security features. That is one of the reasons why many live there, forgoing a landed property with a compound.
In high-rise residential projects, there are access cards programmed to allow entry to the floor one is staying in and to public areas like the swimming pool and gym. We also have gated and guarded communities. Some of the newer townships in Petaling Jaya employ their own security guards with the permission of the local authorities and put up bars and other security features like rows of drums to seal off escape routes in the event of a break-in. Other residential areas do not strictly go by the gated and guarded definition but have security guards and perimeter fencing.
In our search for peace and safety to build and raise a family, we have put a premium on security, either by installing alarms or living in places that comes with such features. There is nothing wrong with this.
But has anyone asked why we have come to this? And to what extend can these measures ensure that our children and loved ones will be secured and safe? While it may be relatively safe within the gated and guarded community and internal break-ins may, or may not, be an issue it is what happens on the streets that is of concern today.
Once a person is outside these “safe” perimeters, he or she is at the mercy of unsavoury and unwanted attention, which may be in the form of snatch theives, robbers, kidnappers or other tricksters, as in the case of Nayati, who was kidnapped while walking to school. Does this mean we install these features in public areas and how far should we go in pursuit of these measures?
While installing CCTVs in public areas like schools, malls and basement car parks and shops may help, there is the cost of keeping them in serviceable condition. But even if the images of tricksters and kidnappers' get-away cars are caught on camera, is there a system where this images and information can be relayed in minutes or seconds to police patrols who will then take it from there? In other words, patrol cars equipped with audio visual gadgets. It sounds so Hollywood. But we've seen enough of police car chases on TV.
This goes back to the systems we have. If cars can come with TVs and police patrol cars with walkie-talkies, why can't these gadgets and their functions be integrated in order to relay images to speed up the pursuit of criminals on-the-run?
But we have to admit that installing security gadgets that integrate seamlessly with policing comes with a cost. Another simple and cost effective way would be police presence.
Yes, there is a need for the men in blue to ride around on motorcycles, some to be in police patrol cars. But we also need those who will patrol on foot on a sustainable intermittent basis, not just because a high-profiled crime has been committed. This will give a sense of security to the people and at the same time serves as a deterrent, to a certain degree, to street crime.
There is something very wrong when the people spend so much money on being safe when they are at home, yet remain vulnerable to all sorts of crime when they hit the streets. We need police presence, and we also need to weed out corruption at all levels of the Government. We need a roof over our heads, but not a leaky one. - The Star
Deputy news editor Thean Lee Cheng thinks the building blocks that go towards making a city liveable is more than gleaming towers.

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