SOMEONE ELSE’S WINDOWS: A vanishing peace By H. Marcos C. Mordeno

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/20 July) – Time was when Malaybalay was a quaint, quiet town, somewhat a hidden niche which could easily inspire weary poets and fill their empty hearts with endless streams of verses that would rhyme with the laid-back ways of the place and its people. Such was the atmosphere then, at least until the early part of this decade.

Things have changed a lot, however. It’s no longer the Malaybalay where one may roam the streets at night unmolested, the old town where anybody knew everybody else. It’s no longer the place where theft and robbery rarely occurred, and when having high walls laced with barbed wire was more of a status symbol than a security measure. Now even small fixed income earners have to scrape the bottom of their pockets to build high concrete fences so that they too may sleep soundly at night.

Burglary of homes even during daytime has become rampant. Robbers would strike when the occupants of a house are at work or in school. Middle class subdivisions are the favorite targets and robbers are usually after cash, jewelries and portable appliances. By all indications, the robberies were well planned and the robbers knew the pattern of the target homeowners.

Yet the local police seem helpless. Or are they just lazy? After the perfunctory crime scene investigation nothing would happen to a case. They would say they have suspects in mind — either individuals or a group that goes by whatever name they can think of — and that’s all there is to it. Meanwhile, the police blotter journal gets thicker each passing day.

Another trend that has become alarming too is the unabated thefts of motorcycles. Given the frequency of these crimes and the precision with which these are being carried out, it should be apparent to the police now that this is the handiwork of a syndicate. Some of the motorbike thieves are armed and they would not hesitate to shoot their victims. About two weeks ago, a man who bought purified water at a refilling station near our house was gunned down before the criminals snatched his motorbike in broad daylight and in the presence of many onlookers.

There’s at least one explanation for the rise in the number of thefts in this city: the police position themselves in the wrong places. Most often, they and their patrol cars are stationed in the heart of the city, usually near big business establishments. Patrolling the subdivisions, for example the cluster of NHA housing projects in Barangay Casisang, is left to a few, unarmed barangay peace officers who receive meager honoraria.

One can only wonder if the police have really taken time to study the pattern of robbery incidents for them to pin down the culprits. This is not a thickly populated metropolis where law enforcers may enjoy the luxury of partly pinning the blame on the sheer size of their coverage. In fact, they have been relieved of doing traffic chores as the city government has employed full-time traffic enforcers. Good sleuthing alone will get the job done. Time to put that intelligence fund into intelligent use and stop laying the blame elsewhere.

Speaking of blame, too many times have we heard of police officials rationalizing their inefficiency by saying they could not do it without community participation. It’s true but only to a certain extent. While people’s vigilance also counts as a deterrent to crime, it can only do so much. As professionals trained – and paid with taxpayer’s money — to do the job of law enforcement, police officers worth their salt hold the ultimate responsibility of safeguarding people’s lives and their properties. Only shameless politicians may hide behind the veil of ifs and buts.

Malaybalay’s officials should also pressure the local police into giving a serious solution to the increasing crime rate. Start kicking some lazy butts around and deploy them to where their guns and guts are needed. No ifs and buts. Just bring back the peace.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos c. Mordeno has lived in Malaybalay since 1989.)