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HK police enlists DHs in anti-crime drive

17 April 2017

58 Filcom representatives pose with police officials for souvenir photo after the meeting at Central Police Station on Apr. 2. 

By Vir B. Lumicao

Hong Kong police has taken the historic move of tapping Filipino domestic helpers to help in the force’s campaign to prevent crime, including those in which the helpers themselves are the victims.
The campaign will involve forming committees in which the members will undergo a series of seminars about Hong Kong law, police procedures and activities to enhance mutual understanding between the community and the police, all at government’s cost.

A graduation will be held at the end of the program for all those who attended the seminars. Those who complete the course will then be recruited as adult crime ambassadors who will disseminate the crime prevention message to their host homes and the Filipino community.

A similar move was undertaken by the police some years back, when Filipino community leaders were asked to help in anti-illegal gambling operations, amid mounting concern over the illicit card games migrant workers indulge in on their rest days.

The police’s new tack was disclosed to a select group of 58 Filcom representatives who were invited to a meeting at Central Police Station on Apr. 2.  

Chief Inspector Kevin Leung, police community relations officer of the Central District, sought the community’s input in the crime prevention program that would be launched for the domestic workers.
He asked participants to send him suggestions but set no timetable for the launch or a date for the next meeting.

“We would like to have your advice on how to run the program better,” Leung said, citing the likely impact of close to 190,000 Filipino helpers in about the same number of Hong Kong homes on the anti-crime program.

Leung told The SUN this was the first time such a program was being organized by the police for Filipino domestic helpers, first focusing on the maids.

“Of course, when we formally roll out the program, we would like to have attendants from groups or organizations other than those who attended on Sunday. It will be opened to all Filipino domestic helpers,” he said.

A hotline will be set up for this program.

The officer said Filipino domestic helpers’ big number alone could help communicate the anti-crime message effectively.

“I can do a simple math, I can suppose that these domestic helpers work in a family of four local citizens and if we do some kind of message, this can be delivered to 181,004  private residences and you can imagine the impact on Hong Kong society,” Leung said, basing his number on 2015 statistics. As of Dec 31 last year, Immigration statistics show the Filipino domestic helper population had grown to 189,105.

Police have noticed that certain crimes such as loan sharking, job scams, and telephone deception target English-speaking victims including the maids.

“We do not want anyone victimized in any more cases, we don’t want any more cases to happen, so we want to give you some messages on how to protect yourselves, how to prevent crime and threats on yourselves,” Leung said.

He said other crimes included wounding and serious assault cases in which some of the victims in more than 5,000 cases last year 19 were foreign domestic workers who were assaulted by their employers.

There were also summary offenses, minor infractions such jaywalking, obstruction of traffic, and illegal fundraising which people tend to ignore. “If you raise funds without permission, you are breaking the law,” he said.

Leung said the program has three objectives: to prevent Filipino helpers from falling victims to crime by educating them about Hong Kong laws; to get their support in disseminating the crime prevention message; and to enhance mutual understanding between the police and the helpers on proper procedures, police services and police assistance.

Citing language and cultural barriers, Leung said the police would try to understand the Filcom’s needs.

“We’d like to hear from your side how the police can do better, so, we’d like to enhance mutual understanding between your parties and our side,” he said.

The initial batch of workers enlisted to the program will attend seminars that will equip them with knowledge about Hong Kong laws and legal system. They will also be introduced to the police force, its challenges, duties, and services, as well as to various types of criminal offenses that they may encounter, can prevent or counteract.

“We may introduce you to the elements of the law, what’s the punishment, etcetera,” Leung said.
The program will also include joint activities such as community service by the helpers and police units once or twice a month on Sundays, a day that is more convenient for helpers, Leung said.
“If more people are joining, we can do it more frequently,” he said.

Among the Filcom members invited to the first meeting were Global Alliance chair Leo Selomenio, Hong Kong Musicians Union chair Manuela Lo, as well as leaders of various OFW groups.
The list of invitees was drawn up by the Consulate, represented at the meeting by Vice Consul Alex Vallespin, head of the assistance to nationals section.

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