Stay vigilant to keep criminals at bay

Police must work with counterparts from mainland to stem string of burglaries and kidnappings allegedly committed by gangs from Guizhou

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 December, 2016, 11:34pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 December, 2016, 11:47pm

Despite its well-deserved reputation as a safe city, Hong Kong is not crime-free. The headline “Manhunt for Clear Water Bay kidnappers”, on the front page of this newspaper this week, is yet another reminder that security cannot be taken for granted. This is not the first time upscale villas and their inhabitants have been targeted by criminals from the mainland. Stronger cross-border cooperation on law enforcement is needed.

Official figures show that burglaries are actually decreasing, from 2,032 cases in 2014 to 1,901 last year and 1,179 in the first eight months of this year. The value of stolen property for the corresponding periods was HK$191 million, HK$110 million and HK$96 million, respectively. But with five burglary reports across the city each day and detection rates of just 10 to 14 per cent, there is no room for complacency.

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The number of cases involving losses of HK$500,000 or more jumped 50 per cent to 42 in the first 10 months of this year, reinforcing the perception that the homes of the wealthy have become more vulnerable.

The latest case involved a gang of three suspected illegal immigrants from Guizhou (貴州) province who allegedly kidnapped a couple after breaking into their house in Sai Kung. The husband was held hostage while the wife was forced to withdraw money from ATMs and buy jewellery worth of HK$260,000 at a nearby shopping mall, according to the police. The suggestion that this was not the first time the gang had allegedly sneaked into Hong Kong to commit burglaries is disturbing.

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Criminal gangs from Guizhou became a source of concern following a string of such crimes, including the high-profile kidnapping of an heiress of a garment chain store from her home last year. The gang who burgled a prominent banker’s house on The Peak last year was also believed to be from Guizhou.

It pays for households to strengthen surveillance and security. The police should also step up intelligence exchange and enforcement with their counterparts on the mainland.