Doubts on triad plan for schools

A 30 PER CENT increase in the number of youths caught committing triad-related crimes has prompted the launch of a new police scheme to ask students to report triad peers in schools.

But social workers believe the scheme is unlikely to work because students are reluctant to tell on their friends.

Special crime information forms will be made available to students in 48 secondary schools in Wong Tai Sin and Western District next Monday when the six-month pilot programme is launched.

Police said two districts were chosen because having fewer schools would allow a more stringent assessment.

But some legislators and youth workers are pessimistic about the results because it is not usual behaviour for young people to report their peers.

Figures show 412 youths aged under 16 were arrested last year for triad-related crimes such as gang-fighting or extorting money from fellow schoolmates, and 317 were arrested in 1991.

Police said the increase was not alarming as the number arrested represented only 8.8 per cent of the 4,705 juveniles arrested last year. But they admitted there was a need to stem triad infiltration in schools.

Police senior staff officer (community relations) Senior Superintendent Lee Siu-kin refused to specify the reasons for the increase but said movies that glamorised triad activities should be held partly responsible.

An inter-departmental working group had been set up to study the problem and would produce guidelines to help schools deal with students involved with triads, he said.

The working group comprises representatives from the Education Department, the Social Welfare Department and police.

Under the new crime form scheme, students are asked to fill in simple forms to report any triad activities they are aware of inside or outside schools.

Anonymity will be accepted but police have urged students to give personal details in full to allow quicker follow-up investigations.

But legislator Mr Tik Chi-yuen yesterday doubted if students would be willing to report their peers and suggested school social workers or teachers should be approached instead.

''I doubt if the police really understand our youths. To the young people, reporting peers is bad. In their culture, brotherhood is more important,'' Mr Tik said.

He suggested police strengthen communication with teachers to get more information about triad activities in schools.

A school social worker with the Boys' and Girls' Clubs Association of Hongkong, Miss Eva Ho Yuen-wah, feared students might shun the scheme for fear of revenge.

''What do you think if you are to report the one sitting next to you and your identity may be exposed during police investigations?'' she asked.

But Mr Lee said the identity of informants would be kept confidential.

''Since the common crime information form scheme was carried out in 1980, 14,848 forms were received, resulting in 4,192 arrests,'' he said.

''The figure speaks for itself that such a scheme is effective and citizens are very co-operative.'' Mr Justein Wong Chun of the Fight Crime Committee, which recommended the special reporting scheme for students, said: ''It is premature to comment. We shall have to see the results after the scheme is reviewed in six months.'' Police are expected to present a report on the scheme to the committee by November.