Sun, Jun 13, 2010 - Page 3 News List

FEATURE : Crime, police, politics converge in Taichung

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taichung Mayor Jason Hu presents officers with a model police award on Thursday in an attempt to improve morale in the city’s police force.

PHOTO: CHANG HSIEH-SHENG, TAIPEI TIMES

Crime has become a major concern for Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強) ahead of the Nov. 27 mayoral election for Greater Taichung, with the city having become the center of a series of violent crimes in recent weeks.

While under normal circumstances the murder of alleged gangster Weng Chi-nan (翁奇楠) in his office last month would have been regarded as a regular homicide in Taichung or any other city in Taiwan, it turned into a scandal and soon became the object of public discussion after it was revealed that one retired and four active police officers were present at the scene of the crime, but did nothing to intervene.

A recent poll by the Chinese-­language United Daily News showed that the recent crime wave in Taichung has had a negative impact on Hu’s popularity.

Hu said he would not disappoint his supporters.

“I will not be defeated by this crime problem,” he said.

Yang Yung-nane (楊永年), associate vice president for research and development at National Cheng Kung University, said that as Taichung is at the geographical center of the country, with convenient public transportation and a well-organized road system, people are understandably attracted to it — including underworld figures.

Hu acknowledged in September 2008 that the city has topped the entire country in terms of its crime rate for the past 15 years, with more than 5,000 crimes committed per 100,000 residents. According to the Taichung City Government Web site, the figure last year was 1,232 per 100,000 residents and 365.07 per 100,000 between January and April this year.

A former police officer, Yang said Taichung police had enough manpower when the Taiwan Province Government still existed, but since then, most officers have been transferred to other areas.

The city government’s Web site shows that Taichung has 2,486 police officers. On average, each officer is responsible for the safety of 412 citizens. Taipei City has 7,642 police officers, each responsible for the safety of 343 citizens, while Kaohsiung City has 4,303 police officers, each responsible for 352 citizens.

Yang said the special food chain between politics, police and the local hostess bar business — which is run by gang members — was a major problem, as was the fact that local politicians rely on gang members for financial help.

Police rely on politicians for their annual budgets, while gang members rely on a certain level of “tolerance” by police for their survival, he said.

“Crime in Taichung has been a problem for years,” he said. “The real problem behind crime is politics. How to fight such politics will be a major challenge for the mayor.”

A Taichung police officer said on condition of anonymity that hierarchical problems in the police force could be one of the reasons why the crime rate there remains higher than in other regions.

“Most Taichung officers are native [to Taichung]. However, most Taichung police chiefs were transferred from other bureaus or departments [in other parts of the country],” he said. “They ­cannot ­really understand what the local ­police are thinking because most get promoted and transferred to other positions within a few years.”

The officer said many of his coworkers felt frustrated whenever officers were accused of being connected with or having close ties to gang members.

“I don’t even know how to respond to this,” he said.

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