On crime and growth

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By Tibs Palasan, Jr

Spark of Law

Friday, July 25, 2014


IT is easy to blame rising crimes to population growth.

Easily, I can wax nostalgic when my drinking buddies in the 80’s – DodongUy, Joe Pallugna, Roy Rosales, Janjan Lucagbo, and Joel Herrera – drinking until the wee hours of the morning at Divisoria, without any fear of physical harm from criminals. There were so few roaming the streets then.

During the 80’s, as I look back now, the drunkards were the bad elements. Whew! My Tanduay buddies, beer was expensive for us students then, we’re the bad elements. We roamed the city streets as if we were invincible. It was not invincibility though that made us through the charivari years, but the relative safety and quite of the city.

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I wish I could turn back father time when there were less people and ergo, less crime. Or, is it a non-sequitur?

Good that my children are not nocturnal. I pity the parents whose children are awake in the evening and sleep all day long. Just imagine the distress they are undergoing.

For us then, our parents were almost sure that no matter what time we can go home safe. Not for the parents of this generation. When our children leave the house, we could not be certain of their safe return.

When Limketkai was bombed July 27 last year, we were shocked. It was numbing. Fear gripped the residents. Of course, hold-ups, abductions, unsolved deaths have been daily fare for the airwaves. We take crime news as something part of our daily grind.

But the bombing was something else. The casualties were high: 6 dead, and 46 injured. That was one statistics of a mayhem we could not forget.

The police buckled down to work. All too suddenly, police visibility was literally visible. Every street, we saw people in uniform. Then that alertness fizzled out. The visibility of our police, to be hyperbolic about this, is zero.

We were back listening to the radio stations blaring the news of unsolved murders, street thieveries, abductions, and the host of petty crimes, which if calibrated in the light of their frequency, are not petty anymore.

Sadly, we get used to the news that we just shrug off our shoulders and console ourselves that hey, that is part of modernity and population growth. Growth and crime, these two are intertwined, so we believe, or rather, we are numbed to believe.

We are awakened though from the commonness of crimes every time something grave happens. Five days before Limketkai bombing will turn one year, the SM robbery jolted us again. Ten men carted away one million pesos worth of jewelries from M Lhuillier.

It is not the worth of the jewelry that was stolen that shocks us. SM is well-guarded, and its security check is strict. Accordingly, seven security guards were in the vicinity, aside from security guards from other tenants in the mall. Right at the back of SM, there is a police unit.

But in five quick minutes, the robbers executed the plan and also the escape. No one was captured. The security guards could not even fire a single shot at the robber. The police unit could not react with dispatch.

Crime was committed right at the highly-secured mall. If crime can be done before the noses of security guards and the police, where else is safe? What part of the city can we be safe?

These are tough questions begging for answers.

Ah, we can go back to the cycle again. Expect for knee-jerk responses from the authorities: investigations, police visibility, alibis for security lapses, Pilate-like washing of dirty linens. No one is to blame. In fact, the authorities are busier exculpating themselves than pursuing the criminals.

The excuse that growth is synonymous with crime simply could not sell. It should not be an excuse. It is the attitude of the defeated and the incompetent. There are bigger cities than Cagayan de Oro that are safer.

Definitely, we don’t lack resources, and human assets. SM is well-guarded, that is, if you equate guarding with warm bodies. There is also a police unit there. But what happened?

It’s not the lack of resources that we could not fight rising crime. It’s the attitude. If you have uniformed men with guns who flaunt their firepower in public display but don’t fire a single shot at the robbers, then something is lacking. If you have police officials who react only to crimes but do not think of pro-active measures, then something is lacking. If you have city officials who are busy posing and making alibis, then something is lacking. They all lack a real commitment to keep safe the city.

In that case, the safer charivari days of my drinking buddies are indeed over.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on July 25, 2014.

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