Oct 5, 2012

Why I read the crime reports faithfully every week

Alright, crime is no laughing matter, but I must admit I have been secretly amused when I read the crime report in the local area paper.

The reports are usually filled with cars driving too fast, houses and garage cages being broken into, cannabis plants being seized, and shoplifting. What amuses me is this occasional warning by the police : "Residents are reminded to lock their doors."

Apparently thieves often gain access that way! Here is a bit from a report on a theft of a bike from a garage : "There was no sign of forced entry as police said the garage was open and unattended."

In Malaysia, doors are not only locked, they are encased in grille. Gates and walls surround the property and gates are almost always padlocked. In a corner house in affluent Bangsar, I saw looped barbed wire - yes, barbed wire! - atop the walls around the property. This house was worth over a million ringgit but its walls looked like prison walls. How sad.

Crime reports (usually by word of mouth) in KL usually involve houses being invaded by a gang carrying parangs (a large, heavy knife), its occupants being forced to reveal location of jewellry and cash and being then bound by ropes. Everyone considers it fortunate if no one was hurt or raped. In fact, a common wisdom passed around is this - if you leave your house for some time unattended, leave some cash in plain sight, so that the thieves will not think their efforts were in vain and thrash the house. Everyone knows someone - if not 10 someones - who have been robbed.

Ladies are 'schooled' on how to carry your handbag when walking on the road (lest a snatch thief on a bike come your way), some handbags have special latches that release when tugged (better the bag go, then be dragged hundreds of metres along with it) and everyone knows that you cannot leave your bag in plain view on the passenger side, as this is an invitation to have your windows smashed by a thief on a motorbike when stopped at a traffic light.

So the sense of trust - some would say naivety - of people here in not locking their doors, is amusing in an endearing way. It harks back to a time when trust was implied; it has a small town feel, in what is essentially part city. I love it that we saw a car with its engine running and the driver not in sight. I love it that we visited a fair one day, parked the car with two windows all the way down (didn't realise it!) and came back four hours later to find nothing missing. (Of course, not all of Sydney is this way; I live in a far flung corner, and some other far flung corners have gun shots ring out at night)

So I read the crime reports every week faithfully. Someone said they fill her with dread, and she'd rather not read them. But when I read them I have a sense of relief and gratitude. It's all about perspective, isn't it?

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