Mar 31 2012

Street crime in Kuala Lumpur

Published by at 7:38 am under Health & safety

The good news for visitors to Kuala Lumpur is that they are extremely unlikely to be the victims of a serious crime such as murder or rape. The bad news is that petty theft, particularly “snatching”, is far more common.

Car 206, there you are.

Car 206, there you are.

Its most common manifestation is women’s handbags or purses being grabbed by pinion riders on motorbikes. Cameras and expensive phones are often targeted as well. Even if it is rarely accompanied by violence, it can still be a frightening experience.

The non-mean streets of KL.

The not so mean streets of KL.

Areas popular with tourists, including accommodation and entertainment hubs such as Bukit Bintang, KLCC, Chinatown and Brickfields, are particularly targeted by snatch thieves. A few general precautions should reduce the chance of being a victim of street crime considerably though:

– If at all possible, keep any bags or other valuables away from the edge of pavements;
– Keep purses or other valuables out of sight;
– Be extra vigilant at night;
– Keep handbags under your arms, not hanging loose on your shoulder;
– Walk towards rather than away from the direction of traffic;
– Carry as few valuables as possible;
– If a motorbike thief does snatch your bag, do not hang onto it, or you risk being dragged along the road.

Friendly neighbourhood cop shop.

Friendly neighbourhood cop shop.

Any crime should be reported to the tourism police, who have boxes dotted around central KL as well as a 24-hour counter at the Malaysian Tourism Information Centre. They speak English, and can give advice on how to deal with lost passports and credit cards.

High rise city, low rise crime.

High-rise city, low-rise crime.

It is worth remembering that KL is one of the safest cities in Asia. And if government statistics are to be believed, street crime has dropped massively over recent years. This is largely due to greater police visibility, even if many beat officers appear to spend much of their “patrols” sitting in Mamak shops.

The not so thin blue line.
The not so thin blue line.

It’s easy to be cynical about the crime-fighting credentials of the Royal Malaysian Police Force, especially given their reputation for corruption, and their heavy-handed tactics at opposition rallies. But when it comes to dealing with tourists, they are almost unfailingly polite and friendly. One major exception to this rule is if you are rude or aggressive towards them; staying polite and calm is highly recommended, unless you have a hankering for a night in a police cell.

We’ve already covered crime issues in Bali, Phnom Penh and Hanoi.

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One Response to “Street crime in Kuala Lumpur” ...

  1. Rampageon 19 Aug 2013 at 7:35 am

    Street crime is not falling, it is reaching epidemic proportions in KL. The vast majority of the many expatriates that we know here have been robbed in the street. It is also getting more violent with knives being used increasingly as people are taking precautions and make it more difficult to snatch a bag (short handles, smaller bags etc.). There are certain known (yes – even by the police) hotspots in the centre – mainly what is know as the Golden Triangle area encompassing KLCC, Jalan P. Ramlee, Jalan Sultan Ismail and Bukit Bintang. The visible police presence in these areas is zero. The only time you might see police is when they can use their sirens while escorting fat cat politicians and VIPs (Very Important Parasites) to and from their lunch dates at the Mandarin Oriental hotel. My advice to anyone intending to visit KL is – don’t it’s not worth the risk and there are far better, and safer, cities to visit in the region.

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