Monday, June 4, 2012

Be alert always even in seemingly safe areas

LAST week, the Internet was abuzz with a first account posting by Internet marketeer Chin Xin-Ci who related her experience of being abducted at a shopping complex in Mutiara Damansara.

The story, which was posted on Chin's Facebook page, was titled "30 hours ago, I escaped from being kidnapped". Uploaded in the wee hours of May 29, the story went viral with over 45,000 shares over the next few days.

According to the posting, Chin was abducted from the mall's car park by two men after she had paid for her parking ticket and was about to leave. One of her abductors, armed with a meat cleaver, surprised her when she was putting her stuff into the rear seat. Despite having the cleaver pressed against her throat and realising what was happening, Chin did not appear to panic but put herself in a position to escape without raising the suspicion of her abductors.

As the other abductor who drove the car slowed down to exit the mall's parking lot, Chin saw the opportunity to escape.

She opened the car door, fought with her abductor in the rear seat, and made a run for it. Except for scratches and bruises, Chin was safe. She even managed to post her harrowing experience on Facebook to alert others.

Chin was lucky. Few women, even men, can keep calm under such a stressful condition. Not panicking gave her the clarity of mind to think of an escape when opportunity presented itself. Not many people can react with such presence of mind. What she did was extraordinary.

When we visit a shopping complex or any high traffic area, we are unconsciously reassured by the presence of the crowd, security officers, as well as the sight of closed circuit television cameras (CCTVs). Unless you are sceptical, chances are that you will even believe that someone alert is monitoring the area from the security room. You see it in the movies and often you think it is the same in real life.

Only when cases like Chin's come to light, you begin to think again and start to worry for your safety.

If the Canny Ong tragedy has taught society any lesson, it should be to always tread with caution when in public places, especially dimly-lit and secluded areas like underground car parks and alleys. Those that appear safe may not be, despite what people tell you.

Sure, most shopping complexes in the city have CCTVs and you see them most of the time. Some of us even try to park near the pillars where they were mounted so that thieves will not break into your vehicle and steal your valuables.

But in reality, have you ever wondered if the electronic eyes are in good working condition?

Are they able to capture events that transpired within their scope clearly, under the lowest lighting condition?

Are those manning the CCTVs trained to watch out for suspicious characters and be alert enough to identify a crime in progress? And if such event occurred, how fast would the security personnel come to your aid if you are a victim?

These days, very few shopping complexes position ticket cashiers at the exits of their car parks. To cut costs, electronic payment booths are provided. This system reduces a long queue at the gates and saves the complexes manpower costs.

There is usually CCTVs at exit points but I suspect these are to keep an eye on people who may try to exit without paying.

Without human presence at the exit point, the CCTV recordings may be too late when it comes to preventing a tragedy.

The way I see it, you have to be alert always. Forget about how safe you feel in familiar places.

Keep your eyes on your surroundings at all times. Watch out for anything suspicious even if you choose not to park at a low-lit or secluded end of the car park.

By being alert at all times, you would never know when you might save your own life or that of another person even in the seemingly safe areas.

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