The first ethnic Chinese officer to head the Criminal Investigation Department started work yesterday, in a move seen as aimed at stemming Chinese concern about a rising security problem. 'My priorities are to curb crime, improve prosecution and narrow the confidence gap between police and the people,' said Christopher Wan Soo Kee, 56. 'I have a tested and proven action plan to combat crime,' he said. Mr Wan also pointedly thanked Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi for having confidence in him. His appointment to the third-highest ranking position on the force is a major departure from the norm, where senior positions are usually the preserve of Malays. But such norms are giving way to mounting public demands - mostly from non-Malays - for an efficient and corruption-free police force. Soaring crime and police corruption are key debate topics at the annual congress of the Malaysian Chinese Association, the biggest Chinese political party in government. Some politicians said Mr Wan's appointment would appease Chinese anger. 'It indicates the government is serious and willing to risk Malay bureaucratic anger to combat a surge in violent crime,' opposition Democratic Action Party secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said. 'However, Christopher Wan will be judged not by the number of Chinese in the Malay-dominated police force but how well he brings down serious crime.' Mr Wan is a respected career officer known for his anti-corruption drives. He is credited with cutting crime by 40 per cent on Penang Island, where he had been police chief since 2003. He is also famous for personally patrolling the streets every Thursday. He faces the task of reducing the rate of serious crime that has increased about 12 per cent every year since 2003. About 170,000 cases were reported for the first nine months of this year compared with 150,000 cases for all of last year. Mr Wan's appointment comes after Musa Hassan, another crusading anti-corruption officer, was appointed police inspector-general in September. Mr Musa sidelined 120 senior officers, replacing many of them with younger, western-educated officers. He also ordered senior officers to patrol crime-prone streets, a move that won instant public praise. This week the government announced it was boosting the size of the force with 30,000 new recruits. 'The critical need now is to restore public confidence. To achieve that, police need to fight crime, respect human rights and show transparency and accountability,' Mr Lim said. Experts who studied the police force in 2004 said only 7,000 of 92,000 policemen were engaged in crime prevention. Opposition lawmakers had long alleged that police were more committed to monitoring opponents of the National Front government than preventing crime. 'They see us as the crooks,' said Tian Chua, of the opposition Keadilan party. 'Police need a new mindset.'