Vigilance key if Hong Kong is to keep its spot as world’s safest city

Overall crime rate is at decades low, but challenges remain as law-breakers turn to hi-tech tools to fleece unsuspecting victims

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 February, 2016, 12:44am
UPDATED : Monday, 15 February, 2016, 12:44am

Hong Kong remains a safe, relatively law-abiding city for residents and visitors alike. Evidence of that is to be found in the city’s latest rankings by international organisations and think tanks cited by the police commissioner – top among 142 countries for safety and security, sixth among 140 for reliability of police service and seventh among 102 for order and security. It is also reflected in the latest statistics, showing that the overall crime rate last year fell 1.9 per cent to a 36-year low or, measured by the rate per 100,000 people – 910 – to a 43-year low.

It might sound trite to say there is no room for complacency, but commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung left no doubt about it. He pointed out that based on last year’s crime statistics, the force expects it will continue to face the threats of technology or cross-border crimes. The statistics tell the story. The age-old offences against the person and property – homicides, wounding and serious assault, robberies, burglaries and theft – were all down. But blackmail was up more than 50 per cent to 1,366 cases and deception rose more than 5 per cent to 9,353 cases. The rise in deception cases was largely attributable to social media and telephone deception, the latter being almost solely driven by organised fraudsters claiming to be mainland officials and demanding money transfers to forestall action by the authorities over alleged transgressions on the mainland.

Lo warned that social media and telephone fraudsters could be expected to change their modus operandi from time to time. The increase in blackmail cases was attributed largely to “naked chat” on the internet, resulting in a loss of HK$3.5 million – up by 52 per cent. Despite the improvement over last year in the overall crime picture, the emergence of new crimes such as these scams call for extra vigilance by the authorities. It is good to hear Lo pledge to strengthen enforcement through exchange of intelligence, collaboration and joint operations with mainland and overseas law enforcement agencies.

Drug crimes presented a mixed picture, with falls in ketamine and cannabis cases masking a worrying rise in those involving Ice, cocaine and heroin. We trust that a 12 per cent fall in domestic violence cases reflects more proactive intervention and counselling of stressed families by police and social welfare agencies. The city may rate highly for safety and policing but we cannot relax our vigilance if we are to continue to be competitive in attracting top talent as an international finance centre.