The police are doing their level best to fight and prevent crime in Kuching but with the wrong techniques and tactics. Fighting crime from the sky by the Police Air Wing Unit is not effective when their helicopters are not equipped with night-vision, infra-red and/or body heat sensors.

Using naked eyes to spot suspect(s) under their spotlight is like looking for a needle in the haystack. It is even difficult when doing spotting from inside a moving helicopter. Bear in mind that the suspects will be moving under cover of darkness and under tree canopy. In addition, the Police Air Wing Unit (PAWU) need to work hand in hand with the ground unit to be effective.

That's mean PAWU can only assist for searching and scouting missions provided the ground unit is nearby the search area. Without using the latest night-vision equipment and detection sensors, the PAWU is just called to make a big show.

That's lead me to say that Datuk Abdul Rahman Hussin, the Acting Sarawak police commissioner is using the deployment of PAWU to show the public that he is working to solve the high crime rate and to calm public fear. But in truth, his plan is hastily executed with flaws and that will surely undermined the effectiveness of PAWU involvement in crime fighting and prevention in Kuching area.

Youtube: Helicopter night search

Youtube: Night vision scope

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Source: (Apr 22, 2008)

Fighting, preventing crime from the sky

By Churchill Edward, Irene C and Jacob Achoi

KUCHING: The state police are deploying helicopters in crime busting and prevention as well as to support its Mobile Patrol Vehicle (MPV) unit.

The public, however, gave mixed reactions to the whole affair with some believing the use of helicopters may not be cost-effective and poses a safety hazard to members of the public and policemen (the Heli Cops) alike.

Others are kind enough to adopt a wait-and-see attitude and letting them try to perfect the lofty method of crime-busting and prevention.

Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) Central Women Section deputy chairman Cheng Yi said that it is still too early to comment on it.

“It has hardly been a week. They (the police) must have some good reasons to come up with such a method,” said Cheng when contacted yesterday.

“I believe that logically, helicopters are not used for chasing people, but to look for clues and signs of hideouts like abandoned houses and bushes as well as for missing loot. When they see such things, the helicopter cops will alert the ground patrolmen.”

On the personal safety of officers manning the helicopters, Cheng said that they are supposed to be experts knowing what exactly to do.

Recently the police conducted some raids and other cases they found what appeared to be housebreaking tools, she said.

But the problem is whether the suspects they caught could be convicted, she said. SUPP Youth chief Alan Sim, who was vocal on security and crime prevention matters during his political campaign, shared Cheng’s views.

He said it was still too early to say whether or not the helicopters are effective for crime prevention. “Give the police a chance. If they are able to curb crime in the city, then it is not a waste of public fund,” said Sim. He added that helicopters could play an important role in tracking criminals or burglars on the run.

On the safety of using helicopters, Sim said he was not the right person to ask about such matters.

Former soldier Lt Col (Rtd) Fabian Wong said helicopters could be effective for preventing and combating crime if the police knew exactly what they do.

“I believe the police know what they are doing when they decided to use the helicopters. They know the capabilities of helicopters. The issue is not cost effectiveness but rather whether they could maximise effectiveness in enforcement and operation,” he said.

He said it would not be cost effective if the police already had the helicopters and equipment but then failed to maximise their usage.

“Once we have them (helicopters) we must use them. If we are not successful the first time we try again. We must adopt trial-and-error in order to succeed,” he said.

“I think the helicopters can be used to identify and chase after escaping criminals. But then again our environment (such as thick jungle) may make it difficult for the heli-cops to spot the criminals. “Perhaps the helicopters could be fitted with equipment like night vision devices and extra strong spotlights.”

Santubong member of parliament Datuk Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said using helicopters showed that the police were serious in fighting crime such as the recent spate of robberies in the city.

He noted that since the deployment of helicopters, cases of armed robberies had decreased.

But whether the method could be sustained depended on the cost effectiveness, he said

“I am not against the high cost but I am not sure whether it can be done continuously,” said Wan Junaidi who is chairman of the Ex-policemen Association of Sarawak. He recalled the time when the police could not even sustain the cost of petrol and spare parts for their mobile patrol teams.

He said the police should continue to curb criminal activities even when the cases had decreased drastically.

According to him, criminals would always strike again when they knew that the police were slowing down. The police, he said, should study the current policing system which might not be relevant anymore.

He cited countries like Hong Kong and Singapore where policemen had been successful in curbing crime.

Police in these countries, he said, would not stop at apprehending criminals, but would even take stern action against little wrongdoings like illegal parking.

Bandar Kuching MP Chong Chieng Jen said helicopters should only be used to pursue criminals on the run.

“If it’s just used to patrol the city from the sky, then it may be a waste of public fund. How effective is such method of crime prevention?” he asked, adding that he preferred to wait and see the outcome of the method.

“On safety hazard, this would depend on the company maintaining the helicopters. How good and professional is the maintenance company? How are its track records in such a role?” he asked.

Chong is also Kota Sentosa assemblyman and state secretary of Democratic Action Party (DAP).

Padungan assemblyman Dominique Ng said the rental, manpower, and maintenance of helicopters cost a lot of money and all these were at the expense of the taxpayers.

The government, particularly the police force, may have to consider its budget on security before going all out to use such method of crime prevention, he said. But it could be cost effective if helicopters were used to pursue robbers and thieves, he said.

“It may be a waste of public funds if helicopters are just for patrol purposes. How effective can such a method be?” said Ng, who is also the state liaison chief of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).

“How frequent do they have to fly in order to call it effective?” he asked.

A more cost-effective method of crime prevention would be for the police to increase the number of its street patrols.

The police should seek the assistance of the army in its preventive duty or jointoperation if they still feel that they were understaffed, he said.

“Frequents patrols are now becoming more necessary as the rate of robberies in Kuching is getting ridiculous,” he said. On safety hazard, Ng said this would depend on the skill and professionalism of the pilot.

Heli-cops must be well-trained and well-equipped with personal safety gears. Some members of the public are still very sceptical with the whole idea.

A lecturer who seeks anonymity said: “If the police can’t catch burglars on firm ground, what makes them think they can catch them from the air? From the standard of their equipment and technical know-how, I fear more for their (policemen) safety and that of the people on the ground should something happen to their machine (helicopter). Also, burglars can hear and see them coming,” he said.

On Friday, acting state police commissioner Datuk Abdul Rahman Hussin said helicopters would be used to conduct aerial patrols day and night to complement its MPVs and patrolmen on the ground.

“We have two helicopters conducting patrols day and night — weather permitting of course — that are equipped with high powered spotlights for night patrols,” he said.

One of the helicopters was used recently to search for suspects in a nearby jungle after a failed robbery attempt at a house at Mile 12 Kuching-Serian road last Wednesday night.

Rahman insisted that the number of armed robberies in the first quarter of this year had declined compared to the corresponding period last year.

“It is just that people are taking more notice because of several recent high profile cases involving VIPs, as well as those living in large houses in the so called elite areas,” he said when allaying concerns that the crime situation in the city is getting out of hand.

He then assured the public that the police were not focusing their attention on VIP houses or elite houses but also on ordinary residential areas as well.


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