MARCH 19 — Local authorities are constantly engaged in a “war” with loan sharks (also known as Ah Longs) who seek extensive and cheap publicity by putting up their illegal advertisements on streets signs, lamp posts, parameter walls, bus stops, playgrounds, trees, electric and telco boxes and any place that is deemed to be conducive and favorable for free publicity.
In the last decade, these loan sharks have become more aggressive about putting up posters and banners advertising their service even if it means that it may damage property (both private and public) and being totally disrespectful to the authorities in both urban and rural areas.
Although local council enforcement agencies are responsible for deploying their personnel to bring down illegal stickers, posters, banners and buntings, they are not to be solely blamed if they are not quick enough to bring down these illegal advertisements.
Loan sharks work speedily to put up new advertising materials as fast as they are taken down by the authorities. Some councils have even set up special teams assigned specifically to remove the illegal advertisements.
Obviously the impact on society is negative for the following reasons. Firstly, the public are fully aware that loan sharks operations are organised and managed by undesirable criminal elements and obviously those willing to violate laws. Secondly, loan sharks via their bold tactics to advertise their illegal business obviously have zero respect for law enforcement especially the police. Thirdly, these illegal advertisements indicate that criminals are in-charge of the streets and not the police. They daringly flaunt the law. Fourthly, the public perception towards the police in recent years is viewed as being negative although the index of crime rate has declined significantly.
These illegal advertisements are an important contributing factor towards the negative perception. Many feel that the police should be striking hard against loan shark operators and not giving excuses that the local councils are responsible for removing all such illegal advertisements.
In addition, in various crime forums, the police have attempted to explain that it is difficult to trace the mobile numbers listed on posters and banners, making it difficult to arrest and charge the culprits for operating illegal money lending services.
The public refuses to accept this lame excuse. The police are able to trace terrorists, hardcore criminals and other undesirable elements via phone numbers; surely it should not be a problem to trace loan shark operators.
Furthermore, another way to apprehend these offenders is by utilising agent provocateurs. Lastly, loan sharks are responsible for many crimes committed against borrowers who are unable to repay their loan due to the extremely exorbitant interest rates imposed when payment is a little late. They instill fear with their aggressive tactics and openly harass family and friends of borrowers without worrying about the police.
Negative public perception towards the police and fear of crime can be changed and/or improved, but the willingness to do so must come from the police itself. The top management cannot brush aside the view of the public on these pressing matters that clearly shapes public perception.
Malaysia is not a war torn country due to civil conflict or unrest that loan syndicates can so easily flourish. Malaysia’s streets in towns and cities cannot be dominated by illegal loan shark advertisements. Rural communities are in the same boat as well.
The police must proactively, strategically and diligently address this issue. The police without fail must be able to detect, apprehend and prosecute those involved in this illegal business. The streets must be returned to the people as clean and safe.
Loan shark advertisements must be replaced with crime prevention and other safety information banners and posters. The police must fulfill the pledge they took to protect and serve society. The public is dependent on you to eradicate Ah Longs for good if possible.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.