Police are reaching out to the city's ethnic minority communities to tackle the rising number of arrests of non-Chinese suspects.
The new initiative, known as Project Connect, is seeking to build upon success in Yuen Long which has bucked the citywide trend. Arrests of ethnic minorities fell to 345 last year from 377 in 2010 even though the district has the city's biggest minority population.
The decline came even as the number of non-ethnic Chinese arrested citywide rose to 4,010 last year from 3,795 in 2010.
Chief inspector Wong Wai-shun, the Yuen Long police community relations officer who is overseeing the project, said it is helping improve communications between community members of all races and the police by inviting ethnic minorities to teach officers about their language and culture.
The district has also appointed 16 cultural advisers - representatives of the Filipino, Nepalese, Pakistani, Nigerian and Indonesian communities - to spread the crime-prevention message.
While most arrests involved petty crimes such as theft, fighting, drug offences and criminal damage, Wong said some cases stemmed from simple misunderstandings between local and non-Chinese residents and could be avoided.
'For example, Africans like to play drums and they need to play loudly to honour God. But the local residents thought they were noisy,' he said. 'It is just like our Chinese lion dancing. It can be noisy too.'
Wong said that all officers in Yuen Long had been told to provide Halal food - food prepared according to Islamic law - to Muslim detainees and inform them of the direction of Mecca, so they can pray towards the birthplace of Mohammed.
Nigerian Eboh Chibuzor, who is one of the cultural advisers, welcomed the police initiative, saying it was helping them better integrate.
Chief inspector Chan Chi-ho of Yuen Long district attributed the overall rise in the ethnic-minority crime to a rise in the non-Chinese population. About a quarter of those arrested did not hold identity cards.
Fermi Wong Wai-fun, director of the ethnic minorities rights group Unison, also welcomed the project. But she warned relations between young ethnic minorities and police were not being addressed and that was a core source of conflict.