December 19, 2013

For The People Of Baguio To Feel Safer, Somebody Needs To Be Watching The City's Streets

Let's call her Phoebe. She was waiting for a friend in front of a coffee shop located in Abanao Street. It was the afternoon of December 7. A black Hyundai van stops in front of the coffee shop. Phoebe didn't pay much attention to the van and the men in it thinking they could just be customers of the coffee shop. To her horror though, they grabbed her and forced her into the van. They blindfolded her, mauled her and robbed her of her watch and cash. They then dropped her off somewhere along Tuding road. Thankfully, Phoebe got out of the predicament alive.

Let's call her Melissa. She's a young student studying in one of the colleges in La Trinidad. A few months ago, she was grabbed along the highway in La Trinidad by men aboard a van. They physically and sexually assaulted her. They dropped her off along the highway in Atok. She made it out alive but she will be physically and emotionally scarred for life.

Let's call her Lyn. Last June, she narrowly escaped abduction by a man riding a red van. She posted the following on Facebook as a warning: "I'm posting this to warn everybody about these kidnappers at large in Baguio City. Last Wednesday in the early morning as I rushed my way to catch up the express jeepney bound to Mines View along Harrison Road, a red van suddenly stopped and tried to grab me and drag into the car. It was good that I had my guards on and was able to flee and ran into the jeepney drivers nearby. It happened at almost 7 o'clock in the morning. The following day, I saw the same man along Melvin Jones grandstand but this time they were in green van. I was already inside a jeepney so I had no way to get the plate number. Please warn your friends and family members."

Phoebe, Melissa, and Lyn. They are all victims of criminals who drive around looking for girls to rob and defile. It's still unknown if the attackers of the three girls are one and the same. The modus operandi however is very similar. They make use of the same stop-and-grab tactic. The crooks probably just drive around trying to spot helpless and isolated girls whom they can easily grab and drag into a van.

It's very worrisome. Since the criminals seem to be randomly picking their victims, anyone who happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time is a potential target. The three attacks we referred to above happened just this year. If you have a wife, a daughter, or a sister, you have every reason to fear for her safety.

It's also worth mentioning that we know of these three attacks only because they've been reported to the police, covered by the local media or talked about in social networking sites. Here's the scary part that often escapes people's minds - the situation is actually much worse if we are to take into account the unreported cases. Criminals don't simply let their victims go free without giving them something to think about. They threaten them first before they cut off the cords off their hands. A parting line would go "If you report us to the police, we'll come after you."

A person who had just been subjected to a world of hurt will have no choice but to remain mum. Still, she's given two choices. Remain silent and try to move on with her life. Or report the attack to the police and risk being assaulted for the second time around. A victim often resorts to the former.

With that said, there's a huge possibility that the attacks on Phoebe, Melissa and Lyn compose just a tip of the iceberg. Who knows how many women out there were attacked. This is something that the city communities and authorities should address immediately. It's very difficult to not worry about the safety of someone if you know that some guy in a van can just whip by, grab her off the street and drive away. And in broad daylight.

What the streets of Baguio City and La Trinidad need is a network of surveillance cameras. The fact that two of the attacks we mentioned happened in Abanao Street and Harrison Road - two of the busiest thoroughfares in the city - should raise serious alarm. These lawless abductors have no fear in conducting their evil deeds in such busy areas because they are confident that nobody's watching them. Put a camera in there and these criminals will have something to worry about. A man with a worried mind is less likely to push through with his bad intentions.
Photo credit: shiranai via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
Surveillance of the streets of Baguio will need funding the bulk of which will be spent on the procurement and installation of the needed equipment as well as their maintenance. Baguio is not exactly a well-to-do city but coming up with the needed funds shouldn't be much of a problem. Surely, if the city can raise Php650,000 to erect a Christmas tree, then it can raise funds as well for a surveillance system that will help secure the safety of its citizens and visitors. It will take much more than 650k but it can be done.

And how about stopping the unnecessary fencing and gating of the city's parks and divert the funds instead to a surveillance project. What good does the fences and gates do anyway? Nothing really but contribute to the city's continuous loss of greenery. Take for instance one of the entrances to Burnham Park; the one near the Baguio Patriotic High School. People used to be welcomed into the park by two huge trees. Now, a gate of metal and concrete is being erected to usher in visitors. Is this City Hall's idea of beautification? Precious funds are being wasted on projects that turn people off instead of inviting them in.

Gates and fences don't convey a message that says "welcome". They instead scream at people to "keep off".

Mayor Mauricio Domogan has stated that the gates and fences are for security purposes. Security against what exactly? Protect the golden bushes from being stolen? Protect the swan boats from being carried away? If the mayor is worried about the cases of robberies happening within the vicinity of the park, these have got nothing to do with fences or gates. If anything, robberies happen there not because there are no fences around it but because there's little to zero police visibility.

Trying to justify the fencing of the park by citing security purposes is nonsense. If City Hall is really serious about providing security for its constituents, it should start watching the city's streets because that's where the horrors of crime happen. Just ask Phoebe, Melissa and Lyn. If there were surveillance cameras watching the streets, these three girls may have been spared from what they've gone through. Catching their attackers may have been possible if they were caught on tape.

Running and maintaining a surveillance network may be expensive but what's expensive if it's what stands between a criminal and someone you care about. And yes, it helps in solving crimes. The Boston marathon bombers were identified through security camera images. The culprits in the 2005 London bombings were also identified mainly through the help of CCTV cameras. In short, they are effective catalysts in the prevention of crimes and in the pursuit of justice.





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4 comments:

  1. As a mother far from my children, I agree to this,,

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  2. So true! Why don't the local government spend funds to more important things like surveillance camera instead of not so useful things.

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  3. burnham park is already beautiful, they should used the money in renovating this area for surveillance cameras all around city center of Baguio...

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  4. there are lots of good projects by the city government, but trully we need cctv in all areas that are possible for installations (cctv). and I think the city should be alarmed by this crimes that are now happening inside baguio and it*s neighboring municipalities, there must be a coordination between the city/municipal gov*t and the police as well as the City*s NBI.. not only cctv but also keeping outpost always alert more importantly highway outpost... that the city gov*t should also coordinate with all schools and students from highest to lowest level regarding on how to prepare such incidents like this as well as additional police or tanods sa mga d matao at mapanganib n lugar...

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