Singaporeans play it safe amid spate of crime in Malaysia

Police officers inspecting the car of Mr K. Veerappan in Penang where he was killed in a shooting. A recent spate of violent crimes in Malaysia has not put Singaporeans off going there. However, many are playing it safe, The Straits Times has found.
Police officers inspecting the car of Mr K. Veerappan in Penang where he was killed in a shooting. A recent spate of violent crimes in Malaysia has not put Singaporeans off going there. However, many are playing it safe, The Straits Times has found. -- FILE PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK 

Crime spate has not curbed travel there, but many taking precautions

A recent spate of violent crimes in Malaysia has not put Singaporeans off going there. However, many are playing it safe, The Straits Times has found.

At least 24 people have been killed and 21 injured since April in shootings and robberies in areas including Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Perak, Johor and Negeri Sembilan.

Miss Candice Lim, a management trainee based in Kuala Lumpur, never leaves her house without a pepper spray.

She also uses the MyTeksi application on her phone to book taxis, which allows her friends and family to track her ride.

"You never know what can happen," said the 25-year-old.

"I try to keep to basic rules such as not going out at night alone and getting my colleagues to send me home."

Malaysian daily The Star reported this week how more Malaysians are staying in at night and closing their businesses earlier .

In July, founder of banking group AMMB Holdings Hussain Ahmad Najadi was murdered by a gunman after a business meeting at a temple in Kuala Lumpur.

A video of a motorist being robbed by five men with parangs in an unidentified part of Malaysia has also gone viral since it surfaced online in mid-July, rekindling concerns about public safety across the Causeway.

"I am quite appalled that crime is going up here," said Singaporean Mark Cheong, 29, who lives in Kuala Lumpur, where he runs a sports equipment business. "You've got to be smart. You can't just walk around at night and think that it's safe."

Mr Cheong was a victim of an attempted robbery about three weeks ago, when he was driving through the Changkat Bukit Bintang area in Kuala Lumpur.

A taxi driver claimed that Mr Cheong had knocked into his car and demanded that he give him $1,000 in compensation.

When Mr Cheong refused, the cabby snatched his mobile phone. Mr Cheong managed to wrestle it back from the man, who then sped off in his taxi.

"You can only be more careful," said Mr Cheong. "My advice is lock your car when you drive."

Accountant Lilian Chua, 53, who flies to Kuala Lumpur every other month for work, agrees: "I'm always very paranoid. I've got to pray for protection and I always keep my handbag away from the road."

Meanwhile, a Straits Times check with five travel agencies revealed that tickets to Malaysia are still as popular as ever.

"To be honest, crime is happening everywhere, even in our backyard," said general manager of Lapan Lapan Travel Norman Chew.

Executive director of Konsortium Express Tours Joe Lim concurred: "In general, we always caution people and advise them to stay safe for all places, not just Malaysia."

Singaporean tourists like Tristant Lam are unfazed.

"It doesn't bother me," said the 28-year-old marketing manager, who visits Johor Baru every week.

"Malaysia is still safe compared to other countries. You just have to be a bit more cautious and alert."

yeosamjo@sph.com.sg