With the recent spate of attacks, robberies and snatch thefts, we really need to pay more attention to security issues – with emphasis on ‘pay’.
On Sunday, I visited a friend who was staying in a hotel along Old Klang Road in Petaling Jaya. At the time, there was another man in the room.
Minutes later, there was a knock on the door. A boy rushed in, breathless.
The other man in the room had left the boy and a couple of girls in his car while visiting the friend. Someone on a motor-cycle had knocked on the car window, asking for directions. And when they lowered the windows, the knives had come out.
The trio lost what little money they had, along with their handphones. They couldn’t even call to tell the guy about their problem. Thus, the dash to the hotel room.
Reality had hit close to home, even as we were talking about the recent spate of robberies in car parks and malls.
Call it a weird coincidence, but that hotel overlooks the scene of probably the most-publicised case of car park abduction and assault in the country. It was here, along Old Klang Road, that Canny Ong, after being abducted in Bangsar, was raped, murdered and torched in 2003.
And only last week, I had visited the Bangsar Shopping Centre from where she had been taken.
After the recent spate of robberies and attacks on women in malls and hypermarkets, I had wanted to see how much the security in the mall had improved. I must say I came away fairly impressed.
The car park was quite brightly lit, there were guards at both entrances and exits – and they were peering into the cars that were entering and leaving. I guess that’s to ensure no abduction ever takes place again.
There were a couple of guys on bikes, and a couple of others on bicycles. And yet another was walking from car to parked car, checking if all were secure. And the guy in the long-sleeved shirt slouched near the fire hydrant? He was the supervisor.
These were not your retired pakciks and uncles, trying make some extra money. They were Nepali army-trained personnel. They looked nice and smiled at everyone but one wrong move, and they can turn nasty. Really nasty, I am told.
Vincent Tan, the BSC asset and property management senior manager says they have 350 CCTV cameras covering all basements and floors.
They’ve also got dog units that patrol the area after dark. And if you are afraid to walk to your car at night, all you have to do is ask and the guards come along in buggies to take you to your vehicle.
More importantly, there are these blue pillars with panic buttons on them. You press the buttons, and the guards come running. They are even to be found in the ladies’ washrooms – the panic buttons, not the guards.
Of course, all that sounds good but I did have a couple of unanswered questions. Other malls are mulling ladies-only parking areas but I didn’t see any such markings there. There may be plans, though, says a friend who works there.
And how many people would know about the panic buttons? There is little by way of education.
I would have plastered notices of these measures all over the mall to make sure everyone would know what to do – and also tell the ladies to take note of the nearest blue column when they park. That way, they would know where to run when faced with an emergency.
It’s bad enough having nowhere to run when robbers hit you at home, or target the elderly, as they have been doing recently. Being robbed while out having retail therapy is hardly therapeutic.
I would think that security, indeed, is something worth investing in as far as malls and hypermarkets are concerned. After all, a mall that’s seen to be safe is likely to bring in the crowds and the paying customers. The key word, however, is “investing”.
Security guards, by and large, get paid pittance. And they have to throw their bodies in the line of fire. Guards in many factories and residential areas are paid as low as RM700 a month.
And in the malls, I am told, they may get RM900 to RM1,000. And I know of Myanmars who help out at hawker stalls and earn about RM2,000 a month!
Maybe we should be rethinking the value of the security guards. After all, if we expect them to lay their life on the line to save ours, we should be ready to pay a fair price.
After all, it’s also the price of our limbs and our lives.
The writer is dreaming of the day when we can have mall cops – friendly, well-paid policemen who ensure our security everywhere. But, for now, that remains a dream.