Police stations attack: Enforce laws, improve proactive crime prevention strategies

"At the end of the day, safety was each individual's responsibility before collective responsibility."

24 May 2024 12:00pm
Photo for illustrative purposes only. Bernama FILE PIX
Photo for illustrative purposes only. Bernama FILE PIX

SHAH ALAM – The protection level at police stations should be improved, including by using body protection and mobile video recorders.

Criminologist Dr Geshina Ayu Mat Saat said this when asked to comment on the recent attack that took place at Ulu Tiram police station, which claimed the lives of two policemen and trespassing incident at Datuk Keramat police station, where a drunk man attempted to seize a HK MP5 submachine gun from the sentry.

“Protection levels should be improved; for example, for each officer, body protection and mobile video recorders could be utilised.

“It is more important to enforce existing laws and improve proactive crime prevention through primary, secondary, tertiary, and situational crime prevention strategies; and using natural environmental design to reduce opportunities, space, conditions, and rewards for crime to occur in the first place,” she said.

The criminologist further stated that the attack was a fear reaction tactic instead of a reasoned response strategy, having to do with how police stations were equipped with safety for witnesses and victims to visit.

Some countries' police stations have heavy safety measures, such as restricted access and barbed enclosures, with the enforcement of negative perceptions through suspicious treatment towards people, she said.

"This causes more harm in the long term," she added.

She said that there were factors that influence individuals to act violently, and most of them are not voluntary.

Related Articles:

"There is a need to look into the criminogenic elements—static and dynamic—that enable individuals to make the decision to attack police personnel.

"The ease of offenders coming forward to attack police personnel in their own buildings goes beyond whether or not stations are secure and safe, and whether or not offenders believe their actions are just," she said.

In a society that was law-abiding and did not resort to violence when they were in conflict, it needed a deep investigation to understand why some individuals feel and think that violence was the solution in some situations, she said.

"Malaysia in general has strict weapon control laws under which its citizens enjoy harmonious living without fear of daily unprovoked attacks.

"It is the actions of the few that instil a skewed perception of fear of crime and an unsafe environment.

"By beefing up security in specific locations, it is likely that the wrong message is imparted, feeding into fears rather than improving safety levels," she said, reiterating the role of existing criminals, setting up a wrong example for the harmonious atmosphere in the country other than the need for security systems to focus on the fear that has been created.

She further stated that, at the end of the day, safety was each individual's responsibility before collective responsibility.

Meanwhile, Arunachala Research and Consultancy Sdn. Bhd (Arrescon) principal consultant R. Paneir Selvam was of the opinion that the issue of police attacks needed to be addressed as a serious national issue.

"If you attack the police, then you not only attack them, but you also attack the government, the citizens, and the country," he said.

He also noted that the Singaporean Prime Minister Lawrence Wong had created proactive measures to avoid the same problems occurring in the country by strengthening the border that separates the country and Malaysia through Johor.

"You must have this kind of approach and urgency about the issue," he said.

He further reminded that the young officers had family members so it was important to initiate additional safety measures following the incident so that it does not repeat in the future, such as adding a more advanced closed-circuit television system where the movements of outsiders and suspects could be detected right away and prevented.

"Web cameras in police cars to keep police stations monitored can also be done other than the police being trained specifically on encountering police station attacks.

"Create regulations that cater to physical reports being made at a certain time only and not at 2am. This is because criminals strike whenever they want and they have a strategised plan, especially as part of organised crime," he emphasised.

Referring to the recent police station attacks in Penang and Johor, he said the suspects were probably already well-prepared, made a dry run, checked the places to see whether they had many police officers or not, what time patrol was done and if they had CCTV around or not.

He also urged the need for scanners to be installed to detect what visitors were carrying with them so as not to lure in any potential criminals with different intentions instead.

"The government needs to allocate enough money for the latest equipment and weapons for police officers to protect themselves and ensure internal security.

"They're the ones who protect ordinary citizens so with enough resources, they can protect the citizens as well as themselves," he added.

He also noted that it would be nearly impossible to predict the minds of organised crime members where the crime usually happens unexpectedly.

"You also have to see the pattern of this crime overseas, such as in Paris, where criminals would not usually aim for police stations but the public spaces to maximise damage.

“You cannot predict when they are going to attack, so take precautions and take note of any slight signs that someone wants to do something or behaves differently because the least we can do is be the ears and eyes of the police to tip off strange behaviour and for the authority to take further necessary action," he said.

Meanwhile, criminologist Shankar Durairaja said there must be other underlying factors that drove the unfortunate events such as the police station attacks, the shooting at Kuala Lumpur International Airport and the breach at Istana Negara – which were all unrelated, according to the police.

"Most likely, they must be related to mental health. Studies have shown that people with certain mental disorders are overrepresented in the criminal justice system compared to the general population," he said.

He further cited the Health Ministry (MoH) in their National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) back in 2015, which found that the prevalence of mental health problems among those aged 16 and above is 29.2 per cent.

“One in three Malaysians has mental health problems, with the highest prevalence among 16- to 19-year-olds and those from low-income families.

"This data is from 2015 and shows what it looks like now, especially post-Covid, inflation, and the various economic issues we are facing now. Negative emotions such as depression and anxiety can lead to anti-social behaviour, especially substance abuse, which can also lead to criminal behaviour," he opined.