Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Unsophisticated Criminals & Crime Rates

My sister, Audrey, worked as a beautician for a while over twenty years ago. Back then I was still in high school and even up to now I'm not sure what her job was all about. She had among her regular clients several Datins who had grown so huge in all direction horizontally, though unfortunately not vertically. They were creatures who probably had trouble sighting their own feet; breasts weighing a few kilograms each and sagging to the waistline. My sister spent her days removing hairs from their legs, and at other times did that thing which I'm afraid I don't quite know what it's called—it's some sort of beating of the breasts using the palms of the hands, thus producing loud flip-flop sounds (which by the way had nothing to do with slippers) in the hope that that might firm up the breasts a bit? The things that people do!

But that's not what this post is about. I meant to give a background of what I'm gonna talk about, you see, and I somehow could think of nothing very interesting to start with except that breast-beating ritual. And just in case you're wondering—no, it wasn't really effective in firming up the breasts. 

Anyway, Audrey had an electronic machine which looked a lot like a sound system amplifier. It had a number of those tiny switches and tuners and plenty of wires attached to the unit. But it wasn't an amplifier at all. Instead, it was some sort of slimming machine. I'm not sure how it worked, but I think the wires from the machine were attached to a fat part of the body; and when it's activated, the wires would heat up. Somehow the fats from that part of the body would be melted away! Those of you who are working as beauticians, please excuse my ignorance if I'm not explaining the process accurately.

Then one day, that machine was stolen from home. Audrey did not even realise that the machine was gone. Who stole it? Well, the thief was actually a distant relative of ours who was staying in the same house. The circumstances leading to how he was caught was quite something. He wasn't even aware what that machine was, thinking that it was a sound system amplifier. But I'm not blaming him, because it did look like one. Desperate for quick cash, he sold that "amplifier" to a dumb manager of a band for RM400. He thought he got a good deal, buying an amplifier at such a cheap price. Only God knows what happened next—I reckoned the manager tested the "amplifier", using an earphone and maybe burning both his ears in the process; or smoke came out of his hair. But after he found out that that wasn't an "amplifier", he lodged a police report. So to  make the long story short, the police eventually caught the thief, and Audrey got her "amplifier" back.

Years later, when I was working in Brunei, I knew a young man who was the only son of a rich man. He had 7 sisters. But he was a lazy bum and never quite measure up to his father's expectations. He always got into trouble, and each time his father had to bail him out. Then one day he suddenly went missing. News quickly spread around. Police report lodged and a frantic search was made. There were speculations that he had been kidnapped for ransom; that a syndicate comprising very sophisticated criminals had carefully planned to squeeze some money from his father. But in the end, he was found dead in a budget hotel room in Limbang. In his suicide note, he apologized to his family members. He lost heavily in football betting, and owed a big some from loan sharks. He took the fast but painful way out.

On Monday this week, a friend told me that his cousin brother had gone missing while trying to deposit money through an automated teller machine. A police report was subsequently lodged. And just in case you don't already know it, lodging police reports is a national favourite pastime here in Malaysia. Apparently, the police had to wait until at least 24 hours had elapsed before they could act. So the family employed the services of a bomoh. The bomoh, apparently having seen too many movies in the likes of The Expendables and A Good Day To Die Hard, somehow arrived at the deduction that the poor lad had been kidnapped by a bunch of drug addicts, and then brought on a joyride all the way to Kudat!

Remembering the story of the useless idiot in Brunei, and keeping an open mind, I suggested to my friend that maybe it's not a case of kidnapping. Rather, it's a case of his cousin wanting to disappear. I had to put it nicely, of course, just in case I might offend my friend with my outrageous suggestion. It's strange that whenever faced with problems of this nature, people have the tendency of dismissing the simplest explanation, and would rather venture with explanations involving very sophisticated criminals whom have spent a lot of time and effort to plan and then execute the crime!

Then today, another friend shared her recent story on a facebook page, about how she had waited for her brother in the car with the engine running, but with all the doors locked. A man had come and tried to open the door, but when that failed, he broke the window. The friend had the right mind to get out of the car, shouting for help, but unfortunately the man drove off with the car.

I find it interesting that in both the latest cases above, there were comments that it's no longer safe these days, as we have more crimes going on in our cities. There was also a mention that "They keep telling us that crime rate is down but that's crap."

I'm not sure what's the truth of the matter. Is crime rate really down? Or has it gone up? I'm convinced that the actual number of crime cases is on the rise. But the size of the population is also on the rise. So it's entirely possible that when the authority tells us that crime rate is down, that's the truth, because even if the number of cases had increased, it's possible that in relation of the population growth, the rate has declined?

But anyway, I'm convinced that most criminals in Malaysia are not as sophisticated as what our romantic mind would like to believe. Well, maybe they will become sophisticated in a decade or two from now. What do you think?


Juin Yi Ng said...

Here's an interesting read on crime rates:

Half a decade ago, the crime rate in USA was predicted to increase by 30 to 50%, which signifies a glum future. But instead, the crime rate DROPPED. Lots of theories were tabled, ranging from effective law enforcement, better employment rate, to better education.

The author of 'Freakonomics' tabled a much more controversial theory: abortion. He argued that the legalisation of abortion prevented the births of unwanted pregnancies, which are mostly from bad family backgrounds. This in turn prevented the births of criminal-would-be. And obviously this theory caused quite a stir with some moral backlash.

What do you think about this?

Cornelius said...

Hi Juin Yi Ng,

I doubt that there is one perfect answer that can explain all, but I'm inclined to believe that there is at least a grain of truth in that theory. Of course the explanation is from the general point of view, but some people are offended by generalized observation!

So before I proceed any further with my comment, I wanna make it clear here that people of all walks of life, family backgrounds and education level have committed crimes. It's just that some groups of people, seemingly, have greater tendency to commit crimes when compared to others. I'm not saying that all of those from within that group are criminals, mind you!

I think it is believable that people from "bad family backgrounds", as you put it, may become criminals, but it's not because they're born with a programmed mind of criminals. Perhaps they turn to crime because of desperation. Because it's almost impossible to compete against people who're equipped with education, for example, yet they need to survive.

Curiously, however, in Sabah, for example, we have a big population of illegal foreigners who come from poor backgrounds with very little education. The two biggest groups, I think, are the Filipinos and the Indonesians. People from both these groups commit crimes, but the Filipinos stand out from the rest! There are just too many bad apples within that group. Again, may I repeat, not all of them are criminals, but the question is: Which of them are not?

Both the Filipinos and Indonesians are mostly poor and uneducated, and both are therefore "desperate". Yet the Filipinos are more inclined to crimes. Immediately we ask the question - Why?

Far from being born with a criminal brain, I think it has a lot to do with the upbringing. You can't expect a new generation of honest and trustworthy people if the generation before them are made up of criminals. If a child is born into a family of, say, professional people who instill the spirit of hard work and emphasize on the importance of education; and the child is frequently reminded to always be a good person, to achieve greatness in life, then he is probably apt to work very hard to become that person. But if a child is born into a family and grows up seeing his elders committing crimes, then it's probably gonna be something that the child would also do when he grows up. It's a cycle that must be broken, and it's probably something that would need a generation or two to change.

If a child is born with a super creative brain that has the capacity to learn new things, or be inspired with extraordinary inventions, but he is born into a family of very poor background living in the jungle far in the interior, then that brain would probably not have the opportunity to develop to its full potential. The child would only learn how to hunt with the blowpipes; he doesn't learn the A-B-C. All the genius of his brain will be just a dormant computer that is under-utilized!

So I'm not sure I can agree with the notion of the "prevention of the births of criminal-would-be." Every normal child has a potential to become a good and productive person. I think it's the environment where that child grows up that is a more significant factor that will determine his directions in life.

I must apologise for this long comment. I sometimes can't control myself!