Crime rate falls to multi-decade low but errant-cop cases up

January 30, 2019 16:45
Acknowledging a sharp rise in criminal offenses involving cops, Police Commissioner Stephen Lo said on Tuesday that the force is committed to stamping out errant members within its ranks. Photo: HKEJ

Hong Kong's overall law and order situation continued to improve last year, with the number of crime cases and the crime rate both falling to levels not seen in more than 40 years, the city’s police chief said on Tuesday.

According to Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung, Hong Kong recorded a total of 54,225 crime cases last year, down 3.2 percent from the previous year and representing the lowest such level since 1974.

The crime rate, which is measured by number of crimes per 100,000 people, was down to 728, marking a new low since 1970.

While there were fewer cases of robbery, burglary, theft, rape, among others, last year, there was an increase in the number of cases of homicide, deception, blackmail, indecent assault and domestic violence crimes, Lo said.

Police data show there were 48 cases of homicide in 2018, two times larger than a year earlier. Lo explained that the surge was due to the fatal bus crash in Tai Po in February that year in which 19 people were killed, with the driver having been charged with manslaughter.

As for the other types of crime, what's worth noting was social media deception totaled 2,064 cases in 2018, representing a rise of 1,001 cases, or 94 percent, over 2017 and involving a combined loss that soared 2.5-fold to HK$500 million.

Among them, 596 cases were linked to online romance scams, a number that jumped 1.5-fold from a year earlier and led to a total loss of HK$450 million, which was up 3.2-fold, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

On Tuesday, the police chief attended a special meeting of Legislative Council's Panel on Security, and later held a press conference, to discuss the law and order situation in Hong Kong in 2018.

During the Legco panel meeting and the press conference, Lo faced many questions that centered on the suspected criminal offenses last year involving police officers. The number went up from 29 in 2017 to 45 last year, a significant increase of about 55 percent.

Saying that he felt distressed about the number, Lo vowed that his department’s resolve to weed out any black sheep within its ranks will not change.

Asked about the case in which retired police superintendent Frankly Chu King-wai, a former Sha Tin division police commander, had been convicted and jailed for beating up a bystander during the 2014 Occupy pro-democracy protests and subsequently failed to get his name cleared in the Court of Final Appeal, Lo said he was sorry about the way the case ended even as he respects the ruling.

Saying that he doesn't want to comment on the individual case further, the police chief declined to respond to suggestions that he should consider offering an apology to the public over the matter.

As to the question of whether he is favor of stipulating a law to punish those who insult police officers, Lo replied that he will support and welcome the efforts by his colleagues to fight for any rule that can ensure effective law enforcement.

Asked about media reports that alleged that a police superintendent was suspected to have used a safe house, a place where police meet informers or witnesses to ensure their protection, as a venue for romantic liaisons, Lo, again, said he won't go into an individual case.

But he stressed that preliminary investigations showed that there was no issue of leakage of any sensitive information in that case. Authorities will undertake continuing serious and thorough follow-ups on the matter, Lo added.

On other topics, the police chief said the water cannons bought for around HK$1.66 million and shipped from France to Hong Kong last year will be ready to deploy as soon as the second quarter of this year.

He refused to divulge his department's guidelines on use of the new vehicles, citing the need to safeguard the ability of frontline officers in law enforcement.

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