Tuesday, September 19, 2006

RT BACK INTO ACTION

The Star News - Central - Tuesday September 19, 2006

RTs back to join crime fight


Rukun Tetangga is gaining national attention again following the Prime Minister's recent announcement that it is making a comeback. StarMetro looks at the present and the past and talked to the National Unity and Integration Department on the future of Rukun Tetangga. YIP YOKE TENG and JADE CHAN report.

THREE years ago, a violent snatch theft that happened to kindergarten principal Evelyn Low sent shockwaves through her neighbourhood, Taman Mutiara, Cheras. The parang-wielding assailants pushed her into a three-meter-deep monsoon drain even after she had surrendered her handbag.

Suffering from a fractured arm, cuts on her face and torn ligaments in her backbone, Low was determined to combat crime although she had only batons and whistles to start with.

Her gutsy act eventually led to the formation of the housing estate's Rukun Tetangga (RT).

Led by ex-banker Baharuddin Baharin now, the Taman Mutiara RT has reduced the area's crime rate by an impressive 70%. The group has also foiled several burglary attempts, which won them an appreciation certificate from the police.

The success has not made them complacent. The group - men, women, the elderly and youths - still conduct nightly patrols dutifully with the co-operation of the Cheras district Rela.

“Taman Mutiara is a very quiet neighbourhood, there's not much commercial activity here. The many exits and entrances here also make this place perfect for thieves to make a quick getaway,” said Baharuddin before the start of a recent patrol.

The residents, about 30 of them, gathered at 9pm in the middle of Jalan Mutiara Barat 4, in front of the proposed site of a RT beat base they have been waiting for for three years. After marking attendance, they listened to Baharuddin's briefing, which was occasionally punctuated by the sounds of passing cars.

Half an hour later, they were divided into three groups to cover different parts of the neighbourhood.

“If we see anyone loitering about, we will stop and scrutinise them. If any of the neighbours spot anyone suspicious, they'll call us and we'll go there. Once, we were just in time to nab robbers who broke into a neighbour's house,” said Baharuddin.

Members of the patrolling group wear distinctive bright yellow shirts, as well as tags, caps, whistles and bamboo sticks provided by the National Unity and Integration Department.

They used to have a few shifts to cover the entire evening but after a while, they found that ineffective and too exhausting.

Then, they shortened the time and cut down the frequency but patrolled during the most dangerous hours of the night. The results were good.

“We can't have too long a patrolling session or do it everyday because all of us have to work the next morning. It's completely voluntary; we can't force others to join us. If more residents join us, we can provide better coverage,” explained Baharuddin.

The oldest member of the group, Chan Sik Kai, 72, firmly said: “It is my duty because I am a resident here.”

One of the female participants, secretary Alice Au Yiang, 50, said she joined the men as she hoped that others in the neighbourhood would do the same.

“I think we must all stand united. We can't just leave it to the men to do it,” she said.

At Taman Taynton, Cheras, most of the RT members carrying out voluntary patrols have joined Rela. So, on selected days of the week, residents will see 15 to 20 of them in neat green uniforms, armed with batons or riding motorcycles, guarding the neighbourhood and nearby areas.

The group started patrolling three years ago in response to the government's call. Today, it has amassed a good number of youths, some working while others till studying, to carry out their social obligations.

“We are happy with the synergy. Here, RT, RA and Rela are intertwined and we are proud of the results.

“The crime index has dropped drastically while neighbourliness has been strengthened,” said Rela platoon head Tay Yong Kwang, who is also Taman Taynton RT secretary.

In Petaling Jaya, Jalan Carey Rukun Tetangga (RT) employs a unique form of patrolling, which is the “morning walkers patrolling”.

“Back in 2002, there used to be a lot of snatch thefts between 6.15am and 7am when female workers and executives were going to work,” said Jalan Carey RT chairman Ayamany Sinakalai.

“We had about 16 cases a year but nothing really happened after we lodged police reports.

“We realised the snatch thefts usually happened in the morning and the perpetrators were motorcyclists, so the RT committee decided to set up the morning walkers patrolling.”

The voluntary “morning walkers patrolling” involves four groups of walkers comprising six to seven male and female walkers in each group. Led by a group leader, who is also an RT committee member, the group walks around the Jalan Carey area from 6am to 7am and keeps an eye out for anything suspicious.

Those who participate are mostly senior citizens and housewives. Should they spot anything suspicious, the group leader will call the police, who normally respond to the calls within 15 minutes.

“Besides having some morning exercise, socialising with their neighbours and keeping watch on the neighbourhood, the walkers help provide feedback to the RT committee about problems in the area, such as rubbish or drainage problems,” said Ayamany, 53.

In addition, the Jalan Carey residents have seven CCTVs installed at prominent road entries and corners in their area. The CCTVs were purchased using part of the RM50,000 development grant that the Jalan Carey RT won in the Petaling Jaya Municipal Council's Best Neighbourhood 2004 competition.

“The family that each CCTV is located closest to has “adopted” the CCTV. The CCTV is linked to a computer in their house, and these families have been trained to operate the CCTVs and computer programmes,” said Ayamany.

The Jalan Carey RT was formed in Nov 22, 1976. It used to have night patrolling after the RT was formed but it died off about four years later as it was difficult to get people to dedicate their time.

It organises various activities that involve all the 1,078 residents in Jalan Carey, irrespective of race, age or religion. Among the activities that the RT has organised are futsal tournaments, fire drills, gotong-royong, CPR programmes and family days.

According to Ayamany, an RT is an organisation that fosters community spirit and friendliness.

“What's important is that there's a good relationship among the neighbours and there's good leadership by the RT committee.”

“I think it's good that our Prime Minister is calling to revive the RT, but there must be co-operation from all who are involved.

“The RT committee members must be active, hardworking and dedicated, the residents must be involved in the activities, and the councillors, state assemblymen and other officers involved must be willing to help,” he explained.

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