Despite the highly publicised crackdown on ‘jaga kereta’ boys extorting money from motorists, we can see them back in business, as in this picture taken in Jalan Dewan Sultan Sulaiman in Kuala Lumpur. Pic by Muhammad Asyraf Sawal

In the months leading up to the day humanity was attacked, a bearded man and his band of misfits in robes sat in a remote cave in Afghanistan plotting what has since gone down in history as a day of infamy.

What was discussed, plotted and executed by the group has turned out to be the biggest intelligence gathering failure of every spy agency in the world.

No one had an inkling of the dastardly acts the terrorists had planned from their remote hideout, resulting in the subsequent toppling of the Twin Towers and destruction of almost half of the Pentagon building which is headquarters of the United States Department of Defense.

The fallout from 9/11 has led to much debate about how everyone from the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), Mossad and all else failed to detect that something big was being planned by Osama Bin Laden from his hideout.

It has also caused all kinds of conspiracy theories to be formulated on how much, and who knew what, to accusations about the real culprits and motive behind the Sept 11 attacks.

Whatever it is, the core issue that ultimately crops up whenever 9/11 is discussed is the fact that every agency tasked with intelligence gathering the world over had failed miserably in carrying out their job.

Closer to home, and whether the authorities want to admit it or not, there evidently also has been a catastrophic failure in the fulfilment of responsibilities.

This failure has led to a crime which could have been halted easily escalating into a big problem for the people.

The irony of it is that this crime needed no intelligence gathering at all to manage.

Truthfully, it does not even require any intelligence at all to handle actually.

But the thing is our enforcement authorities let it slide and people had to pay for the sloppiness of everyone from the local authorities, to the Road Transport Department (RTD) and the police.

For how else can they explain what was/is happening openly, right in front of everyone’s eyes escape their attention all this while.

Thousands of motorists were/are being fleeced daily all over the country and it was only last week someone decided to act.

The RTD, to their credit, finally nabbed a handful of jaga kereta boys who were extorting money from motorists in a special operation. The joint operation, involving the police, National Anti-Drugs Agency (AADK), and Immigration Department, was carried at eight locations in Kuala Lumpur and one in Shah Alam, Selangor.

“This illegal activity has become a public nuisance. Whenever members of the public park their vehicles by the roadside or near buildings, these unscrupulous people would come and ask for a parking fee,” RTD director of enforcement Datuk V. Valluvan was quoted as saying.

The suspects, Valluvan said, had charged parking fees of up to RM15 per car.

Following the operation, the jaga kereta suspects who were rounded up were charged under Section 50 (3) of the Road Transport Act 1987 for extorting money from motorists.

“It is the first time in history that the section has been used against those involved in the illegal activity,” he said.

It was reported that the parking touts, who included a Sri Lankan, were fined a measly RM500 and RM550 each by the magistrate’s court.

The question that begs to be answered is why have the authorities allowed a criminal act which is happening all over the country, every day, to go unchecked.

The culprits are openly extorting — as the authorities have now admitted — people who are already hard-pressed for cash these days.

It is shocking that after all these years, only now has the RTD decided to haul up a few of the criminals fleecing money from helpless motorists who are often forced to pay for fear of getting into unnecessary altercations with the rogues who have taken over our car park lots.

You do not have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out that there is more to the jaga kereta menace than meets the eye.

It is a big business. Those involved in it are not just your typical junkies out to make a quick buck.

Yes, there are the drug addicts, homeless and vagrants who will ask you for small change when you park at certain places in the late evenings and after dark but these are generally the harmless ones.

It is the rogues who work in groups by claiming certain areas as their domain that are causing all the problems. These thugs have no qualms about demanding up to RM30 before they allow you to park at hotspots in the city, on council lots!

While it is laudable that the RTD has hauled up some of the parking touts, every motorist in the country will be praying that such action is not only done on a seasonal basis.

As it is, we can already see that the jaga kereta boys are back in business, extorting money from people without a care in the world.

It is happening all over — Brickfields, Solaris Mont Kiara, Jalan Bukit Bintang, Shah Alam, Kampung Baru, Jalan Medan Tunku, Jalan Ampang ... you name it.

By the way, it is not only the parking touts who are openly committing criminal acts and getting away scot-free right under the noses of our enforcement agencies.

Take a drive around the city centre these days and one can see how our roads have become chock-a-block, no thanks to illegally parked cars and motorists blatantly flouting the rules, making illegal U-turns, running red lights and generally disregarding all traffic rules.

Admit it or not, it looks like we are treading a very dangerous path where people are just not obeying the law any more. It is all thanks to absolutely lax enforcement of the law which has led to people totally disregarding the rules, and somebody has to answer for it.

Sharanjit Singh is a journalist who feels less talk and more action is needed to save planet earth from mankind

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