Voluntary patrol units make their presence felt

Night sentinels: Members of the Penang Island Voluntary Patrol Unit (PKSPP) doing their rounds on motorcycle in island Glade area.

PENANGITES appear to have been sleeping better these days, thanks to several groups of unsung heroes who help police to combat crime.

The biggest so far seems to be the 1,800-strong Penang Island Voluntary Patrol Unit (PKSPP) which was formed two years ago.

From a mere 30 members to its present strength, the unit is hailed as a force to be reckoned with, assisting cops to help keep criminals at bay.

And the man behind it, lorry salesman Sunny Lim, seems unperturbed over the huge jump in membership in just two years.

?I?ve always felt that there are a lot of people out there who want to help the community but never had the chance (to do so). Our unit gives them that opportunity,? he said in an interview.

In fact, voluntary patrol teams and other community policing groups were commended by Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar for their efforts in helping the police to keep the crime rate down.

During a high-profile policing programme and walkabout at Air Itam market last Thursday, the country?s top cop said police would enhance its relationship with volunteer patrol teams and other units to tackle crime.

Penang police chief Deputy Comm Datuk Wira Ayub Yaakob had also attributed the state?s record-breaking drop in crime rate by 27.1% last year to community policing.

Lim said he got the idea to set up the PKSPP in 2009 while volunteering as a Rela and Rukun Tetangga member.

?Our surveillance began within the Komtar area and slowly, we expanded to the whole island,? he added.

The PKSPP covers 21 districts in the state but its Jelutong community policing unit conducts patrols from 10pm to 2am (Monday to Thursday) and from 11pm to 3am (Friday to Sunday). The public can contact the unit?s hotlines at 017-650-9500 or 012-473-8105.

Lim said the members carried out voluntary patrols on their motorcycles during their free time and used walkie-talkies to communicate among themselves.

?Members have to pay for their own safety vest and walkie-talkie which cost over RM500,? he said.

He said they did not carry any weapon except for torchlights and defend themselves by means of teamwork and quick thinking.

?As a safety precaution, each team would patrol with no less than four volunteers and accompanied by a policeman.

?Despite safety being the priority, there have been instances where volunteers were injured while trying to help victims of crime,? he added.

Lim recalled how the volunteers once apprehended a man armed with a foot-long knife about two years ago.

He said the team noticed a man loitering suspiciously around 10pm at a housing area in Jelu-tong.

?When they approached him for questioning, he suddenly pulled out the knife and started to attack the volunteers.

?They managed to evade the blows and the man tried to escape but he was arrested after being overpowered following a short chase,? he said.

He stressed that the volunteers? main role was to act as the ?eyes and ears? for the police.

?If the volunteers come across any suspect, they will first inform the police.

?We also have a strict code of conduct. We are guided by a set of rules to ensure that volunteers do not misbehave and jeopardise the team?s safety.

?For example, they are not allowed to enter a private property without permission, accept monetary rewards from the public and must obey police instructions at all times,? he said.

Lim said the team?s most common encounter during their patrols was unlocked cars.

?Every night, we would come across five to six cars that were not locked. We would try to identify the owner and ring their doorbell to alert them,? he said, adding that police would also leave a note on their windscreen to remind the owners.

On public opinion, Lim said it is divided at best.

?Some have praised our efforts and even sponsored walkie-talkies, while there are those who are sceptical and think of us as potential trouble-makers.

?This could be due to the lack of public exposure on who we are and what we do, coupled with the fact that we are always out in the streets late at night,? he added.

Lim said volunteers were encouraged to join the unit, especially those serving in the Rukun Tetangga or other volunteer patrol teams.

?With more members, we can respond faster whenever there is a crime and assist the victims,? said the 35-year-old, who also praised the police for supporting them.

George Town OCPD Asst Comm Gan Kong Meng shared Lim?s sentiments and expressed hope that the example shown by PKSPP would further motivate the public to work closely with the police.

?We constantly hold dialogues with the volunteers to give guidance and ensure that they understand good practices and respect regulations.

?The better the volunteers understand and observe the do?s and don?ts, the more effective community policing will be,? he added.

SOURCE: The Star

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