Wed, Aug 30, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Interior ministry honors private sleuths

By Max Hirsch  /  STAFF REPORTER

Minister of the Interior Lee Yi-yang, left, yesterday presents awards to a group of private citizens who have helped the National Policy Agency crack cases involving automobile and motorbike theft during the summer.

PHOTO: CHEN TSE-MING, TAIPEI TIMES

The National Police Agency is cracking cases of automobile and motorbike theft like never before, thanks to a new legion of crime-fighters, Minister of the Interior Lee Yi-yang (李逸洋) said yesterday.

According to a National Police Agency press release, 7,283 cases of vehicle theft nationwide have been solved since April 1, with overall annual rates of theft for automobiles and motorbikes dropping 31 percent and 19 percent, respectively.

"There has been a marked improvement in the effort to recover stolen vehicles. This year, for example, there are 2,000 fewer cases of vehicle theft than the same period last year," Lee told reporters at a press conference yesterday to honor the "detectives" responsible for this achievement.

"Ninety-two out of 100 stolen vehicles have been recovered so far this year," Lee added.

So who are these super sleuths? Blue-collar workers, housewives and students -- middle-class folks who track down stolen vehicles in their spare time.

As part of Premier Su Tseng-chang's (蘇貞昌) campaign to improve public safety, the National Police Agency is increasingly drawing on the eyes and ears of citizens nationwide.

Public help

Since early April, the agency has included a hyperlink on its Web site that allows users to input vehicle license plate numbers to check whether vehicles are listed as stolen or missing. If there's a positive match, users can call a hotline to alert the police as to the vehicle's location and other details.

Users who provide information leading to the recovery of stolen vehicles or the solving of vehicle theft cases are eligible for a cash reward of NT$20,000 (US$615), and a chance to be honored at a monthly press conference at the agency's Taipei headquarters.

The first place investigator in yesterday's conference was Lin Hou-chi (林侯志), a Taichung taxi driver who helped police recover 14 stolen cars and 50 stolen motorbikes last month. Lin also contributed information that led to the arrests of one car thief and six motorbike thieves.

The runners-up included two housewives, an electrician and a plumber.

"We owe a debt of gratitude to the citizens who are making us all safer," Lee said as he shook hands with the top citizen crime-fighters last month.

National Policy Agency Director-General Hou Yu-ih (侯友宜) was also on hand to congratulate the winners.

Safety improvement

Lee acknowledged during the conference that recent opinion polls reflect a lack of public confidence in Su's campaign to stamp out crime. However, he urged people to pay attention to statistics showing that public safety was improving.

"These are objective numbers showing that crime is decreasing," Lee told reporters.

Su pledged in March to significantly reduce crime levels by early next month or he would resign.

The minister also said that while maintaining order was the responsibility of the Taipei City Police Department during the planned sit-in protest against President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) starting on Sept. 9, National Police Agency forces under the Ministry of the Interior would be ready to assist city police during the demonstration if needed.

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