THE most worrying aspect of the high-speed boat chase and shootout off Sai Kung on Wednesday night is that it may be the start of a violent trend in a type of crime police thought they had begun to control. The numbers look encouraging enough, with monthly police sightings of fast-moving boats down in 1993 by about two-thirds on the previous two years. But the remaining syndicates seem far more criminally determined. While the boat that fired on the police got away, one of the three smugglers' vessels spotted was caught. It was stopped when it caught fire from police flares, but in general the methods the police are now using are more sophisticated than in the past. However, if, as police now believe, the smugglers are armed and ruthless, it may be time for further re-equipment. The Anti-smuggling Task Force has asked for faster, purpose-built boats and higher-powered weapons. The task force is doing a dangerous job and deserves every support. But if it is to be issued with even more powerful weapons, it should deploy them with care. The smugglers, too, have deep pockets and deadly weapons. Now they have begun shooting at police, it can only be a matter of time before the waters of Hong Kong see death and serious injury.