City’s police must be well enough resourced to be effective

With the nature of crime changing and becoming more challenging, Hong Kong’s reputation as a safe city for residents and visitors alike is at stake

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 31 December, 2016, 1:16am
UPDATED : Saturday, 31 December, 2016, 1:16am

The police force has had to juggle resources amid a sustained surge in the number of public protests and rallies and changing patterns of crime. As a result they are to get their biggest manpower boost in a decade to ensure their capacity to keep law and order and provide emergency services. Police sources say about 900 new officer posts will be allocated to various units on top of 600 new hires in 2015-16, in response to the Mong Kong riot in particular, and a seven-fold increase in protests and rallies over the past 20 years.

Hong Kong to recruit 900 extra police officers after major riot and surge in public order events

About a third will go to the emergency unit, currently about 900 strong, which is first responder to a range of crimes and cases of serious public disorder. According to the sources, if all resources were called out to handle a major incident such as the Mong Kok riot, basic services would be stretched – an invitation to wrongdoers such as thieves and burglars to take advantage.

The rise in protests is not necessarily a bad thing so long as they remain peaceful and respectful of others’ rights. All but relatively very few have conformed with the mutual spirit of tolerance that underpins our freedoms. But we need to make sure that police are sufficiently resourced to handle disturbances without compromising other duties. Hong Kong’s reputation as a safe city for residents and visitors alike is at stake. Police visibility is a deterrent in itself, and there is strength in numbers.

About 180 posts will go to a new Police Tactical Unit, of which there are already seven, assigned to public order such as crowd and riot control and anti-crime operations. The government is also beefing up the elite Organised Crime and Triad Bureau, which has tracked down the instigators of the Mong Kok riot and cracked down on people-smuggling syndicates.

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Leaving protests aside, crime is changing and becoming more challenging. Digital scams have added a new dimension to white-collar crime and human-trafficking has stretched border protection. Last but regrettably far from least, we cannot rule out terrorism and related activities in an international hub like Hong Kong, given the global reach of organisers and perpetrators.