Fri, Dec 31, 2004 - Page 8 News List

It's time for Taiwan to get tough on crime

By Yang Shu-lung楊士隆

In Taiwan, people almost daily hear about incidents of kidnapping, coercion, homicide, looting, disfigurement [by others] with sulfuric acid, assault, shootings and other criminal cases. On top of these crimes, the emergence of all sorts of dangerous behavior, such as the recent "rice" and gas bombings, makes our society increasingly violent. The country's fierce political battles often overshadow the issue of violent crime, although the media tend to cover individual incidents extensively. Domestic violence, child abuse, sexual violence, gang wars and other social problems occur all the time, and the public needs to be aware of the huge social toll violence exacts.

According to statistics compiled by the Ministry of the Interior's National Police Administration, an average of around 10,000 violent crimes have occurred each year over the past 10 years. From January to November this year, 11,353 violent crimes (including homicide, kidnapping, armed robbery, assault, extortion and rape) were reported. From January to October, district courts prosecuted 2,166 people for alleged violations of the Statute Regulating Firearms, Ammunition, Knives and Other Deadly Weapons (槍砲彈藥刀械管制條例), a 3.7 percent increase on the previous year. We can estimate that about 260,000 households in Taiwan have experienced violence, based on information gleaned from a sample of 7,026,174 households.

Violent crime not only harms people physically through disfigurement, infertility, hearing and visual impairment, brain damage, HIV infection and so on, it also causes psychological problems, which can take the form of depression, mood swings, drug abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, nightmares, anxiety, fear and fatigue.

A study conducted by the US Department of Justice confirmed that victims of criminal violence suffer the additional burdens of having to pay for medical and psychological treatment, a loss of income and a decrease in productivity, as well as intangible losses, such as a reduction in the quality of life. These losses can even influence the nation's economy. Without doubt, every country, society and individual must pay the price for criminal violence.

Faced with the prevalence of violence in society, we need to be aware that violent crimes are usually preceded by danger signs, such as frequent quarrels, fights, verbal or written threats and other similar indicators. We should be on the lookout for these signs and refrain from verbal provocation to prevent any possible tragedy. The government should address the prevention of violence from a very fundamental level. People should be encouraged to attend courses on anger management, interpersonal relationship skills and promoting their "emotional quotient." The police administration and the justice department should continue to enforce gun control measures and severely punish any violent act to prevent further tragedies.

No matter what the causes of violence are, a person who commits a violent crime should not be allowed to escape their responsibilities, even if they claim to have acted with high-minded motives or because of mental illness. They should be held responsible for inflicting irreversible fear and pain on their victims and the general public; otherwise, how can social justice be achieved?

Finally, preventing violence is the responsibility of every citizen. We should act with a sense of social justice and reject violence. In this way, we can finally bring back a safe living environment.

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