Fear Mongering

TMI reports that participants at a forum called “Time to Reform the Police Force” were told that Malaysians no longer feel safe. Apparently to back the claim that crime was rampant, R Sanjeevan, the chairman of so-called crime watchdog, MyWatch, produced figures that showed that “67 murders were reported in the first two months of the year while more than 6,000 motorcycle thefts and over 900 cases of criminal intimidation were also reported in the same period“.

To add to the shock value, he claimed these figures were “leaked” to him, which I suppose is meant to imply that this is something that the government doesn’t want people to know about.

The numbers do look big, don’t they? Of course,  1 murder is 1 too many, but do the numbers really show that crime in Malaysia is now out of control as the article suggests?  Let’s compare the figures with statistics from other countries and also with how Malaysia has done in the past. Since international statistics on motorcycle theft and criminal intimidation are rather hard to come by, let’s look at the number for murders.

If we extrapolate the figures for the first 2 months to the whole year, we would expect to end up with 67 murders * 365 days / 59 days = 414.5 murders for the whole year. Usually statistics for the murder rate are expressed in number of murders per 100,000 people per year. Malaysia’s population just turned 30 million, so 414.5 murders per year would give us a murder rate of:

(414.5 murders  * 100,000 people) / 30,000,000 people

=   1.38 murders per 100,000 people per year

So, how are we doing compared to other countries? This site has a nice convenient table that ranks countries by the rate of murder  (or “intentional homicide” as the UN calls it).

1.38 would put us at 151st place out of 190 countries (1 being the country with the highest murder rate and 190 having the lowest). Certainly not the best, but respectable nonetheless. We are quite a way off the likes of Japan (0.4) and Singapore (0.31) but still much better than the USA (4.75) and neighbours Indonesia (8.07), Thailand (4.76) and the Philippines (5.39).

What is more interesting, though, is that 1.38 would be significantly better  than our own 2006 figure of 2.27. In fact, the rate would be lower than every year for which the UN has data:

Country or Area Year Count Rate Source Source Type
Malaysia 2006 604 2.3 CTS CJ
Malaysia 2005 497 1.9 CTS CJ
Malaysia 2000 551 2.4 CTS CJ
Malaysia 1999 588 2.6 CTS CJ
Malaysia 1998 629 2.8 CTS CJ
Malaysia 1997 540 2.5 CTS CJ
Malaysia 1996 447 2.1 CTS CJ
Malaysia 1995 396 1.9 CTS CJ

As for more recent years, official figures show that there were 602 murders in 2012 and 478 for the first 9 months of 2013. Again, the projected 414.5 would be an improvement on these years as well.

The numbers, at least for murder, do not indicate that violent crime is getting much worse, if at all. So why do Malaysians feel less safe these days? Perhaps people like Mr Sanjeevan should look in the mirror to find the answer.

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