Wed, Apr 26, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Time to focus on preventing crime

By Yang Yung-nane 楊永年

The government has proposed a slew of new policies to improve law and order, hoping that they will bring quick results. But law and order has continued to deteriorate. One can't help but conclude, then, that there is something wrong with the policies.

Indeed, for a long time now such policies have been flawed. They have failed to improve the situation, and worse, they have created new problems -- thereby highlighting the dangers of even the best-intended policies. One example is the campaign to "strike at the source" -- a campaign announced by Minister of Interior Lee Yi-yang (李逸洋) on Feb. 5. Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) endorsed the policy and promised to step down if social order had not improved within six months. But there are already warning signs that this policy, like previous ones, will be ineffective because of the way it was formulated.

First, the central government does not have to take responsibility for flawed law and order policies. In theory, if such policies are seriously misguided, a government official should step down to take responsibility. But the promise of former interior minister Lin Yang-kang (林洋港) some 20 years ago to eliminate break-ins within a three month period, and a promise during former president Lee Teng-hui's (李登輝) days to improve law and order within six months all came to naught.

When such policies are perpetuated, they might cause the situation to further deteriorate. This specific policy was followed by the murder of feminist Peng Wan-ru (彭婉如) in 1996, the execution-style murders of Taoyuan County commissioner Liu Pang-yu (劉邦友) and eight others in Liu's home in 1997 and the kidnapping and murder of Pai Hsiao-yen (白曉燕) in 1997. In the end, everyone was too busy trying to solve these murders to care about whether or not social order had improved or to assign blame.

Then there was the crackdown on organized crime -- the so-called "crimesweeping" campaign -- which some said actually led to more crime. They argued that the tougher the crackdown, the more gangs' hierarchies were disrupted -- allowing lower level gang members to set up shop on their own, which in its turn led to a further deterioration in law and order. There was also a crackdown on illegal weapons, which only led people to give up arms that were no longer usable. The "law and order alert" system, which applied five different alert levels to track the progress of anti-crime campaigns led to massive suppression of crime reports and was soon abandoned. There was also an ineffective "zero crime growth" campaign. But due to shortcomings in police organization, no one dares to voice any doubts concerning these policies, which were all imposed from above.

This situation has led to inconsistencies in the duties of the central and local governments. The current system for setting law and order policies leaves the central government with all the rights but no responsibilities, while local governments are left with responsibilities only.

Since the police organization is a centralized system, tasks handed down by senior officials will be rapidly handled by the National Police Agency, regardless of whether or not they can be implemented. Then they are passed on to county and city precincts. Top achievers are rewarded through a points system or promotions, while underachievers are given warnings or immediate demotions.

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