29 August 2007

Indonesia on guard as crime rate surges

Indonesia on guard as crime rate surges
Mark Forbes, Jakarta
August 29, 2007

KIDNAPPERS wrenched five-year-old Raisya Ali from her nanny outside a Jakarta school a fortnight ago, sparking a massive manhunt amid concerns about rocketing crime rates.

Raisya was rescued 24 hours after Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono issued a plea for her return. She had been moved across several hiding spots over nine days, but police eventually traced the kidnappers' mobile phone.

Yesterday, first lady Ani Yudhoyono called on parents to form neighbourhood watches "in view of the increasing frequency of kidnappings". Wealthy Indonesians and expatriates have already begun hiring security escorts for their children.

Raisya's kidnapping, the 14th in two months, has been accompanied by increasing robberies, attacks and murders in Jakarta this year. An Indonesian police report says aggravated assaults, burglaries and homicides have risen by more than 20 per cent.

The rise is driven both by "opportunists" and organised gangs. Numerous passengers catching "fake" taxis outside large shopping malls have been mugged or abducted.

After obtaining recent crime statistics, security firm Assessments Group Indonesia has warned of a long-term trend of rising crime. Founder Brian Watters blamed both poverty and a declining fear of the police force for "a disturbing worsening of personal security".

"The trend is a reflection of the fact that the post-Soeharto era is more conducive to crime — with fear of police decreasing — and the economic climate, with more than 40 million people unemployed," he said.

There has also been a spate of robberies by bogus taxi drivers, with two female Australian embassy staff among victims.

In an upgraded travel advisory, the embassy warns that abducted taxi passengers have been forced to make cash withdrawals before being released. "Petty crime is common and robberies are increasing," it states.

Mr Watters said Jakarta remained safer than many other cities in the region, including Manila and Bangkok, but warned crime rates were likely to continue to increase.

While welcoming Raisya's rescue, authorities are urging greater vigilance to halt the increase in kidnappings. The daughter of Said Ali, an executive of the Indonesian Young Entrepreneurs Association, Raisya was the 39th Indonesian child abducted this year.

Her kidnappers demanded a ransom of $A130,000, but police used sophisticated surveillance technology to track the mobile phone they used to call a Jakarta service station. An Islamic teacher hired to teach Raisya the Koran was behind the plot.

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