Police to receive armored vehicles from the military

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Fri, Jul 30, 2004 - Page 2

In response to the threat posed by armed criminals, the Ministry of National Defense yesterday agreed to lend three armored vehicles to the Ministry of the Interior for use by police.

"We're planning to refit the vehicles and deploy them in northern, central and southern Taiwan," Minister of the Interior Su Jia-Chyuan (蘇嘉全) said at a press conference at the Executive Yuan yesterday.

"The police commander in each of the three areas will be responsible for deciding when and how to use the vehicles," Su said.

In March, Premier Yu Shyi-kun asked the ministry to include new items related to security in the NT$5 billion (US$146 million) arms procurement plan approved by the Cabinet. In addition to upgrading communications and forensic resources, the plan for the four-year project includes measures to provide law enforcement officers with new bulletproof jackets, helmets, shields and masks.

The decision to provide the armored vehicles to police came after a media report on Tuesday that the police had sought permission to use a military armored vehicle for Monday's raid on fugitive Chang Hsi-ming (張錫銘) and his accomplice Chen Chin-hsiung (陳進雄). The report said that the request was turned down and that the police were forced to use improvised "armored" vehicles -- maintenance vehicles loaded with sandbags.

Hou You-yi (侯友宜), commissioner of the National Police Agency's Criminal Investigation Bureau, later said that the military had not refused to help with the raid and that the police had decided to use their own gear because they thought they could handle the situation.

Painting Monday's high-profile shootout as an "isolated incident," Hou told a press conference yesterday that police intelligence indicated that Chang's crime syndicate had imported most of its arsenal from the Philippines.

In an effort to check the supply of weapons from overseas, the premier agreed yesterday to allow the Criminal Investigation Bureau to station crime liaison officers in the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam to gather intelligence on firearms and narcotics that might be exported to Taiwan.

Hou said that he believed Chang and Chen were still hiding somewhere in the country.

"We'll stay on their trails and team up with the Coast Guard Administration to prevent then from leaving the country," Hou said.

Hou also defended the police's raid on Monday, which has been criticized because Chang and Chen escaped.

"Our strategy was not flawed. Chang and his gang had been under close surveillance for over a month before the raid was conducted," Hou said.

"Although 3,000 to 4,000 bullets were fired during the shootout, only four law enforcement officers were injured and more than 10 of Chang's accomplices have been apprehended," Hou said.

Hou said that cracking down on firearms and drugs would top the National Police Agency's priority list in the future.

According to Hou, the number of crimes reported between January and last month showed a 1.34 percent decrease year on year. The number of cases solved, however, showed a decrease of 2.27 percent, Hou said.

The number of guns seized between January and last month increased by 54.9 percent compared to the same period last year, and seizures of bullets increased by 16.81 percent, Hou said.