BEIJING is to increase the number of patrol police to 5,000 next year after their apparent success in fighting crime in the past six months. Since May 1 this year, the numbers of criminal cases and violations of law and order in the Chongwen district of downtown Beijing have dropped by 84.6 per cent and 69 per cent respectively with the introduction of the patrol force, compared with the same period last year. 'We have captured about 1,500 thieves, armed robbers and cracked 340 criminal cases in the past six months,' a police patrol spokesman said. Policemen in patrol cars were now on duty from 8 am to 8 pm every day and this would be extended to 24 hours a day in the coming year. Shi Weimin and Li Haibo, members of the 3,100-strong Beijing patrol police squad said they were assigned to the main streets and squares of eight downtown districts and three suburban scenic spots. 'One day when we were patrolling a busy shopping street downtown, suddenly a middle-aged woman reported her purse was stolen by two men,' officers Shi and Li said. 'We chased after them and finally handcuffed the men.' The two said their duties also included maintaining smooth traffic flow, attending rescue work, aiding accident victims and others who need help and stopping disputes. Their work in maintaining security on the streets and providing help has won acclaim from residents.