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Following is a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok, to a question by the Hon Abraham Shek in the Legislative Council on January 22:
It has been reported that on the Christmas Day just past, five luxurious apartments on Hong Kong Island were found within a period less than two hours to have been burgled, with properties valued over two million dollars in total stolen from four of them. It has also been reported that burglary gangs comprising mainly local people often recruit criminals from the Mainland to come to Hong Kong to commit crimes, because it would still be very easy for the local people, who are the masterminds of the crimes, to escape justice even if such mainland criminals are arrested. Furthermore, such mainland criminals will return to the Mainland immediately after committing crimes and stay away from Hong Kong, making it difficult for the Police to detect such cases. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the number of burglaries of luxurious apartments in the past three years and the number of such cases detected by the Police;
(2) whether it has assessed the correlation between burglaries at luxurious apartments and the residents there travelling abroad during holidays or their oversight of home security;
(3) whether the Police have maintained close liaison with the property management companies concerned in respect of anti-theft measures for luxurious apartments and tendered advice on plugging security loopholes; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(4) as quite a number of luxurious apartments are located at secluded areas, whether the Police have taken specific measures to curb burglaries targeted at such apartments; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(5) whether the Police have encountered difficulties in bringing to justice mainlanders who have returned to the Mainland after committing burglaries in Hong Kong; if they have, of the difficulties and whether any solution is in place?
The Police have been paying close attention to burglary cases in different premises. On top of actively taking preventive measures against such crimes, the Police provide home security and anti-theft information to the public through various channels. My reply to the Member’s question is as follows:
(1) As there is no standard definition of “luxury apartments”, the Police do not maintain any figures of burglary cases in such premises. However, there has been a downward trend in the number of burglary cases in Hong Kong. In the first 11 months of 2013, there was a total of 3 281 cases, a drop of 15.6% against the same period of 2012. Figures of burglary cases in residential buildings with property losses at a value of $500 000 or more in the past three years are at Annex.
(2) According to the Police, residential flats are prone to burglary if left unattended for a long period of time, such as when the whole family travels abroad. The Police believe that burglars will take their chance of breaking in when the flats are left unattended. In case the flat is to be left unattended for a long time, residents are advised to adopt various measures to step up home security, which include suspending newspapers delivery service, or asking friends or neighbours to regularly empty the mail boxes, so that burglars will not notice the residents’ long-term absence. Residents may also pre-set the timer of their home lighting system or audio equipment, creating a setting of occupancy to avoid giving chances to burglars.
(3)&(4) The Police have been making efforts in the combat and prevention of burglary on many fronts through a strategic increase of police presence at black spots of such crimes, as well as deploying beat officers on an intelligence-led basis. Uniformed patrols and inspection of security facilities are also stepped up at areas with a higher risk of burglary, such as secluded places. During the “Winter Precaution” when there are more long holidays, front-line uniformed and plain-clothes patrols are enhanced to avoid giving chances to burglars. In addition to augmenting intelligence collection and crime trend analysis, police manpower is strengthened at black spots to watch out for and intercept any suspicious persons.
Effective publicity and education are of vital importance to burglary prevention. The Police have been raising residents’ crime prevention awareness by community engagement. In terms of home burglary prevention, the Police regularly conduct burglary prevention talks for property management companies and their security personnel, and relay crime information, including the trend and common mode of operation of burglary cases, to them through e-mails in order to raise their awareness of burglary prevention. In addition, the Police put up posters at the lobbies of public and private residential buildings to remind the public of stepping up home security. The Police, in the light of the characteristics, settings and needs of different districts, also conduct anti-crime campaigns in collaboration with District Councils (DCs) and District Fight Crime Committees (DFCCs), and examples of which are distribution of promotional leaflets to residents on home burglary prevention in different languages and organisation of security talks. Furthermore, the Home Affairs Department and its District Building Management Liaison Teams have rendered support and assistance to owners and owners’ corporations. Education and publicity programmes are organised from time to time to promote effective building management and to provide relevant information, including building security.
Residents are advised to remain vigilant at all times, regardless of the types of residence. The Police shall continue to disseminate information to the public on the trend and common mode of operation of burglary cases, and offer feasible security advice by means of various channels, such as collaborations with DCs and DFCCs, interviews on newspapers, TV and radio APIs, Police Magazine and the Internet, including the Hong Kong Police YouTube channel and the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF)’s mobile applications.
(5) The Police are aware that less traces are left behind by burglars. A burglary case may have happened for quite a while by the time it comes to light. In this connection, the most effective means is to take precautions by maintaining home security at all times. In case of a burglary, any damage of on-the-spot evidence is to be strictly discouraged, and a report to the Police shall be made as quickly as possible. If the persons involved in the crime are outside Hong Kong, the HKPF and the relevant law enforcement agencies shall, having taken into account the principles applicable to inter-jurisdictional co-operation, and in compliance with relevant laws and regulations, follow up or handle each case in the light of evidence and individual circumstances.