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Can we be safe again, here in Malaysia?

There have been several shootings cases that have taken place in Malaysia these few months, with the latest taking place a few days ago, in which a real estate agent was shot dead at close range by two unknown assailants on a motorcycle while driving her luxury MPV in Taman OUG in Kuala Lumpur.

In the incident, her eight-year-old daughter, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, was also shot and is in a critical condition. The victim was driving with five children and a maid when two men on a motorcycle approached the vehicle and opened fire.

Before this incident, a man survived six gunshots from an unidentified motorcyclist, at Km3.5 of the Kuala Lumpur-Seremban section of the Plus Expressway on June 29. On June 21, two motorists were injured when they were shot at the traffic lights interception of the main road with Sunway/Batu Caves.

Miri PKR branch secretary Bill Kayong was also shot dead, on June 21, by an unidentified person at the traffic light junction in his Sarawak hometown. Prior to that, on April 15, two men were shot dead in Sabah after eight shots were fired into the vehicle they were in.

It should always be remembered that the safety and security of a country is normally measured by the number of related crimes that take place in any year. The crime rate also incorporates the number of murders that take place.

Based on the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the average homicide in Malaysia is 500 to 600 cases a year, whereas the Pemandu statistics show that there were 498 homicides in 2015, which means slightly less than two persons are murdered daily.

In Thailand, the average homicide is seven persons per day. Going by our population ratio, we are therefore roughly the same rate as Thailand.

Contract killers or hit men

Contract killers or hit men are hired killers employed by one party or organised criminals to kill a targeted individual. It involves an illegal contract agreement between two parties, in which one party agrees to kill the target in exchange for some form of payment. In other words they kill for profit.

Contract killing is associated with acts of jealousy, revenge, cover-ups, political motives or the elimination of witnesses or business rivals. Such killings can be escalated by gang wars over the control of drugs or in the prostitute trade.

It is now a known fact that even in Malaysia, with a gun-free environment, there are contract killers who ply their trade. They provide their service for a fee. The fees depend on the profile of the targets.

It is believed that average price for a hit is between RM5,000 and RM100,000. The hitmen are hired through gangster channels. They can also be found in the underground Internet, the Dark Web, by using a special search engine known as TOR (The Onion Router) to get access to these hidden sites.

Revitch and Schlesinger and Schlesinger identified three general types of contract killers: the amateur, the semi-professional and the professional.

The amateurs are probably best characterised as the inexperienced, career criminal or drug addicts who take a few hundreds to kill someone’s spouse or other related persons. Their planning levels are low, often impulsive, disorganised and often leaving physical evidence and as such, these amateurs easily caught by the police.

Semi-professionals plan their actions in an orderly and systematic manner. Their targets are mostly business associates, criminals or political rivals. These hired killers, compared with the amateurs, normally leave little evidence but the police still have means to find them out.

The third type or the professional contract killers are smart criminals with who are orderly, systematic and well organised. They work for organisations or gangs or as freelance killers and carry out high profile killing among the organised criminals or any special targets. In order to perform a perfect murder, the professional killers ensure the absence of physical evidence to be detected by the police and with elaborate body and effective staging.

In Malaysia, most of the contract killers are semi-professionals. Targets are normally killed at traffic lights or in the coffee shops. Most of their actions are captured by CCTV cameras. Physical evidence is something left behind at or near the crime scene that would point to them as responsible for the murder.

According to the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph, almost seven out of 10 murders are solved using footage captured by CCTV cameras. In 90 murder cases over a one year period, a good quality CCTV was used in 86 investigations, and senior police officers said it helped to solve 65 cases by capturing the murder itself on film, or tracking the movements of the suspects before or after an attack.

The Malaysian government is blaming smuggling along the Thai-Malaysian border for the rise in the number of illegal guns coming into the country. But border law enforcement agencies have successfully stopped numerous attempts at smuggling weapons into Malaysia. Even though the Malaysian authorities are increasing their efforts to stop smuggling across the border yet many Malaysians are still not convinced the government and border guards are doing enough.

The government’s announcement that the Anti-Smuggling Unit (UPP) involving three core agencies, namely, the Royal Malaysian Police, Immigration Department and Royal Malaysian Customs and Excise Department, will be upgraded into a Border Security Agency is a good move.

However, the agency must be a strong single, independent agency tasked to patrol borders only. The special unit must also be trained, possess knowledge on investigation and the country’s laws. The government has to provide a sufficient budget and equip them with the latest technology gadgets, such a portable device that will enable the officers to scan for concealed weapons at the Rantau Panjang, Bukit Kayu Hitam and Padang Besar checkpoints.

The government should also find ways to overcome the presence of “lorong tikus” (rat lanes), which make it possible for the Thais or Malaysians to smuggle weapons into the country without going through the immigration checkpoints.

Using drones, high-density security cameras, stationing integrity officers and building a high concrete and barbed wire wall along the border can prevent smugglers from smuggling weapons into our country.

Security and safety should be non-negotiable in our country!

AKHBAR SATAR is the director of the Institute of Crime & Criminology at HELP University.

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