Better safe than sorry! Make it harder to be a victim
By Julie Broadbent
This Wednesday (9th March) we were delighted to welcome Superintendent Choo Lily to the house to talk to members about staying safe and how we personally could make it harder to become victims of crime.
Superintendent Lily has been Head of the International Liaison Unit since it’s inception three years ago but has been a member of the Royal Malaysia Police for 36 years. Her unit comprises two deputies and four other members of staff, whose sole purpose is to liaise with international visitors and residents and to keep them safe – preferably through crime prevention.
She stressed to us that there’s lots we can do to keep our families and ourselves safe but also advised what to do in the event of an incident. Her sensible advice was applicable not only to KL but to anywhere in the World. As we know, there are ‘bad apples’ wherever you live or travel.
Personal Safety: Top Tips
- Don’t walk or jog early in the morning or late at night when the streets are empty.
- Try to always walk in well-lit areas.
- When you are walking out, only have on you the cash you need for the day and don’t wear conspicuous jewellery (this applies to the men too. Several members have mentioned that their partners have had gold chains snatched by thieves on motorbikes) or have expensive hand held electronic devices in your hands.
- Don't be distracted by using your mobile.
- Walk confidently and be aware of your surroundings.
- Wear your handbag on the side away from the road to discourage snatches from passing motorbike thieves.
- Walk against the flow of traffic – this makes good sense anyway as you can see what is coming towards you.
- If someone makes a grab for your bag, let them take it. Whatever the contents, they can be replaced! Try and get as good a description as you can of the thief and the registration number of the bike if possible.
- Don’t be afraid to yell out for help! Thieves hate anything that brings attention to them.
- If you have no choice but to walk in an area that feels intimidating, have a pepper spray in your hand at the ready. These can be bought in handbag size from Ace Hardware for a few ringgits.
When using taxis:
- Try to walk with a friend when out at night and have them escort you to your car or taxi.
- When using a taxi, sit behind the driver and call someone with your time of arrival. You could also take a photo of the driver and his number to send to your contact. Some of the taxi apps. give you the driver’s details and the Uber app. also allows you to send ‘real time’ details of your journey to a friend. When the taxi drops you off, it might be appropriate to ask them to wait a moment until you enter the building or have locked your house gate behind you.
When driving/in your car:
- If you feel you are being followed, don’t head straight home. Drive around the block again – they may just be heading to the same place as you! If you’re still worried, drive to the nearest police station and give them a description of the car and the number plate if possible. If you don’t know where your nearest police station is, head somewhere ‘official’ – Debbie Tan’s husband (ex Hong Kong police) suggests the royal palace! Might as well aim high!
- If you’re heading to your car, make sure you have your keys in your hand so that you don’t have to rustle through your bag to get them out. They can also be a handy weapon! Hold the keys in between your fingers and you might have the opportunity to jab them in the eyes or some other ‘delicate area’.
- Always make sure you lock your car – obvious I know, but sometimes we can forget – and never leave it with the engine running, even if you are just popping to the letterbox or to your local shop.
- Try to park in well-lit areas or in shopping malls, you might find it reassuring to use one of the Ladies Only parking areas.
- Do everything you can to stop a stranger getting into your car! This might mean running a red light or some other ‘dodgy’ manoeuvre but this is Malaysia – they are used to bad driving! Also, don’t be afraid to use the horn to attract help!
In the event of an accident:
- Accidents must be reported to the traffic police within 24 hours.
- Get as many details as possible from the other party (name, registration number, address, phone number etc). They may not have insurance but don’t worry about this – it doesn’t have the same repercussions as in the UK.
- If the other party doesn’t have insurance, the police will follow this up.
- You may find a number of tow trucks appear as if by magic or people offering you the services of a tow truck. Don’t use any of these without first speaking to your insurer, who will have a preferred company and will arrange for them to come to your aid.
In bars and restaurants:
- Opportunist thieves love trying to separate you from your handbag! Keep in on your lap, behind your back. If you have it on the floor, can you put your foot through the strap or put a chair or table leg through the strap? Ask a friend to keep an eye on it whilst you go up to the food counter.
In a lift:
- When you are in a lift with a stranger, try to stand with your back to the wall. Avoid standing in front of the door. Do not turn your back to the stranger. Have him/her in your view and look at them!
Safety in the home:
- Consider replacing the locks when you move into a new property – rented or bought. You have no idea how many people still have keys to the property!
- If you think there is a burglar in the house, ring the police immediately. It’s the same number as in the UK, 999, and police aim for an eight-minute response time.
- Don’t leave your house unlocked – even if you are just popping round to the local shop or taking the dog for a quick walk. If it is a large property, you might need to keep it locked even when you are at home – perhaps you might not hear someone coming in the front door if you are in the west wing!
- You might be able to set off your car alarm to raise help – many have a button on the ‘plipper’ to set off the alarm. Again, noise is your friend and thieves hate it!
- Don’t forget to cancel deliveries if you are away for a few days. Nothing gives away an empty house quicker than piled up newspapers.
At the ATM/bank:
- Guard your pin number. If you feel that someone is ‘hovering’, cancel the transaction, walk away and find a more secure venue or return later.
- Put cash away immediately. Don’t stand there counting it. Have you ever known it to be wrong? If it was, you can report it to the bank later.
- Prepare your banking matters (paying in slips, deposits etc.) before you leave home, so that your time spent at the ATM or bank is kept to the minimum.
- Don’t withdraw large sums of cash unless absolutely necessary. If it is needed, can someone accompany you? If it is a lot of money, can you divide it up on your person, so that it is less likely you will lose all of it in the event of theft?
- Never accept offers of help at the ATM from strangers. It is probably well intentioned but if need be, talk to the bank’s own staff.
- We all know those ‘phishing’ mails offering you millions for helping someone in Nigeria to clear funds! However, you also need to be aware of strange mails from friends, whose mail accounts have been hacked and all their contacts mailed asking for help as they are stranded in some foreign place and have had their credit cards stolen. Quite credible, with the lives many of us live here! Ask yourself, ‘am I the first person they would contact and wouldn’t they just ring me’?
- If something feels too good to be true 99.9% of the time it is!
Credit card cloning/safety:
- If you are travelling overseas, it is worth contacting your bank to let them know to expect transactions on your account/cards from that country. It can save you inconvenience and stop it being flagged as possibly fraudulent.
- If your card is cloned, contact your bank as soon as possible. Or indeed, the first you hear might be when they contact you as their systems are very quick to pick up unusual activity these days.
- When paying by credit card, it is not always possible to keep your card in sight but be suspicious if it is away for longer than seems necessary and contact your bank if you are concerned.
- It goes without saying, but don’t give out your passwords, pins or personal details to strangers. If for some reason you have given a pin to someone you trust, change it as soon as possible. Superintendent Lily told us about her mother in law trusting a young lodger to take cash from her account for her. He abused this and took the card and withdrew money without her permission.
Issues with the police:
- Sadly, we have all heard of incidences with corrupt police. Superintendent Lily is unequivocal in her response to this. If you are accused of a spurious offence, never pay! Ask the officer to issue you with a summons and you will deal with it. You might also say to them that you will speak to Bukit Aman – home of police HQ - which is likely to fill them with dread, apparently!
- If it is possible, take the officer’s name and number and where you had the issue and report them. Superintendent Lily’s contact details are at the end of this piece, if you don’t find your local station helpful.
What to do in the event of any incident:
- Report it to the police as soon as possible!
- Give them as many details as you can – you might save someone else the experience that you’ve had. Did the thief have distinctive clothing? Maybe you could see tattoos? Did they have bad skin or body odour?
- Language can obviously be a barrier but you can ask to type out your own statement or indeed take a printed statement with you. You could even use Google to translate key sections into Bahasa. It would be unreasonable to expect that there will be someone on duty 24-7 who speaks fluent English!
In summarising, Superintendent Lily also suggests that we make sure that we know our own localities and take pride in them and get to know our neighbours. If a streetlight is out, report it. If there is uncollected rubbish, report it. If you want to see better lighting for security, lobby local government along with your neighbours. Stake your claim on your neighbourhood and make it safer and a more pleasant environment. One member told us that her are has a WhatsApp group for neighbours to communicate any concerns - rather like the Neighbourhood Watch zones that operate in the UK. Why not consider setting one of these up?
Overall, Superintendent Lily’s advice is: trust your instincts. If something or someone makes you feel uneasy, move away. Send the message to those around you that you are calm confident and know where you are going.
In the event of your local police station not being able to help you, Superintendent Lily and her team can be contacted on: