Oxymoron on crime deterrence

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014


WE ARE sated with news on criminals riding in tandem, plying their nefarious trade using a motorcycle whether it’s on YouTube or CCTV footages on TV. But this time, I was an eyewitness to the real deal.

I saw it up close at four meters in the real world the other night, roughly at 8:45 p.m. I witnessed a lone motorcycle rider along Malakas Street in Diliman Central, Quezón City snatch the bag of a student reviewing for her architecture board exam.

Nothing hits in the gut than witnessing a crime scene and unable to identify a suspect or even get a plate number. The motorbike had no plate number and the rider had a crash helmet that made it hard to recognize the face.

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The thief tried to snatch the victim’s smartphone but she instinctively clutched it harder. In a split second, the criminal went for the bag in one deft motion and sped away.

I didn’t have my cellphones with me so I asked the victim and her friend to call 117, the Filipino version of the USA’s 911, to contact the police.

Except this is the Philippines, not the US. I gave an allowance of response time of 15 minutes, slower than the expected arrival.

The theory was that the rapid responses to 911 (or 117) calls, the shorter police travel time from assignment to arrival to the crime scene, the better the crime deterrence.

Conversely, the longer it takes the police to respond, the more crime there will be. In our case, it took a police car 40 minutes – almost forever! – from Station 10 in Kamuning to get to Malakas Street.
No wonder residents complained of similar incidents. One told of a teacher who was a victim of a motorcycle thief using the same modus operandi in Matatag Street. Mind you, there are several CCTVs in the community that captured the crime scenes.

A crime hotspot with several complaints and I can barely see any patrols.

No wonder criminals have a heyday. To think that I often stay in a hotel whenever I’m in the country’s prime metropolis. Now I don’t feel safe anymore.

The first law enforcer to pass by was a barangay police with his wife riding a motorcycle. We had to flag him down to apprise him of the crime incident. He radioed his home base to debrief his superior who we overheard said that at 30 minutes past the time of the crime there would be no chance to chase the criminal. Duh!

Frankly, I was unimpressed with the guy, however. If a law enforcer riding a motorcycle had no helmet on, what chance do crime victims have on the tanods conducting random and directed patrols on a hotspot?

To think that Diliman Central in Barangay Piña is positioned between Police Station 10 and the Quezón City Hall. Anyone would have thought the community would be crawling with law enforcers. No such luck.

At any rate, I joined the victim and her friend inside the patrol to help make a blotter report in Station 10. The desk forever said the last time they arrested a motorcycle rider was in 2009 when they captured a certain “Macmac,” a former Shakey’s delivery driver who decided on a career shift to professional criminal.

Lessons for the week: CCTVs do not deter crime. Another is to expect Philippine Standard Time in rapid response to 117 calls.

***

(bqsanc@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on July 09, 2014.

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