Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Aug 14 2007

Police station removal protest

meetingI saw on a notice posted in the elevator of my building that a meeting was being held for area residents, government officials and police personnel to “explain” why the only police station in the area is scheduled to be removed. I have some amount of sympathy for this cause and had the morning free, so I hopped on the free shuttle bus along with 30 or so other residents and walked to the activity center off Ankang Road where the meeting was being held.

I was told to sign my name, and was issued a booklet containing the details of the situation, which I browsed through after sitting down to wait for the meeting to start. Apparently the police station has been around since 1973, when less than two thousand people lived in the area. Today we have over 11,000 residents, a number that will certainly rise when the new complex over the MRT opens. I know that there used to be a police station next to the old Xindian Train Station, located where the MRT terminal is today, but nowadays the nearest police station on that side of the river is way up Beixin Road.

I noticed that nobody was sitting in the front row of folding metal chairs, so I moved up and sat there, surrounded by three tables’ worth of various officials, including several country council people, city council people, borough chiefs and a couple of legislators. A glaringly empty seat in the center of it all was reserved for the police representative.

This absence was the subject of much scorn when the meeting was called to order. “I didn’t just tell the chief of police about this meeting yesterday, you know,” the County Councilman Tseng Cheng-ho said. “I told him about it on August 1st. He said he could come, and if he couldn’t come, he’d send his second-in-charge.”

One by one, the officials spoke out against the removal of the police office. Most of the complaints centered around public safety. Some people mentioned that Bitan is a major tourist attraction and that a police presence was necessary. The “Six-Star Healthy Community” plan from a couple of years ago was trotted out and quoted. Some of the speakers were boring, but a couple of guys really got into the protester spirit and whipped the audience’s indignation into a near frenzy.

Then it was time for comments from residents. Most of the people there were older residents who didn’t have day jobs, but they could still shout quite loudly. Many accusations of the police only caring about promotions at the expense of The People were hurled about. I wondered if anyone would ask me to speak, and mentally prepared a few points just in case, including the popularity of the Bitan Suspension Bridge for would-be suicide cases, and the opening of the new complex above the MRT terminus. I wondered how much Taiwanese I should use. Most of the speakers began in Mandarin and only switched to Taiwanese when they wanted to express a more emotional plea.

Luckily, nobody called on me. It was just as well, as the police representative had finally shown up, an older smiling man who seemed to be the assistant chief of police.

The police rep explained that the removal of the station was part of a greater plan that would supposedly increase general coverage and more police on the street. “Because when criminals see police officers,” he said helpfully, “they won’t engage in crime.” So nice that criminals only think about committing crimes when they see police officers, I thought. I suppose they don’t have a problem committing crimes in a neighborhood near a police station. The representative also mentioned a lack of manpower and funding, charges the legislators and council people said could be dealt with. Cries of “OBJECTION!” flew from the residents. The woman behind me was especially bent on having her say, starting in on a tirade about how the police were “keeping her down.” The police rep ignored them. He did go on to say that a station would be built inside the new complex over the MRT station, which would answer at least one of my own objections.

The meeting lasted until after 11am, with nothing really resolved. The legislators said they would take the “results” of the meeting back to the Legislature, and the council people said they would report back to the council. Hopefully someone will be able to do something concrete, but the police administration seems to have made up its mind on the matter.

As for me, I hope the station stays. If the city and county government really want to develop Bitan into a proper tourist destination (not necessarily a good thing, in actual fact, as that would only increase the number of mouth-breathers crowding the bridge every weekend) as they say they do, then you’d think they’d want to ensure its reputation as relatively crime-free. They’ve ordered the destruction of the riverside restaurants, including our beloved Rendezvous, in the name of this objective, after all. So why remove the police station? It just doesn’t make sense. Are they going to implement a “Come See Our Lovely Crime Scenes” tourist campaign? They could sell “Gangster of the Month” calendars and have a chart posted by the bridge where you can bet not only on the number of suicides that month, but also on the number that managed to take out a swanboat or two as well.

The problem might have something to do with the current budget issue. Originally, Taipei City and Kaohsiung City got about 40% of the budget subsidies, while the other cities and counties got the other 60%. Then a draft law was passed elevating Taipei County, due to its huge population, to roughly the status of the two largest cities, meaning that it would receive part of the 40% to make up for the difference in funding. Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin was not happy about this, of course, but it really pissed off Chen Chu, who, despite the fact that her election as mayor of Kaohsiung was annulled by a district court, is still apparently playing the part. She threatened to withdraw her support for the DPP candidates in the upcoming elections if Kaohsiung didn’t get a li’l sumtin extra, so the Cabinet dolled out several billion to its darling political powerbase o’ the south, reducing Taipei County’s budget to a couple of billion more than it had when it was just another county. Upon witnessing this act, both Hau and Taipei County Magistrate Chou Hsi-wei got up and walked out of the Cabinet meeting.

It’s possible that during the Legislature’s review of the budget subsidy allocation that someone will try to do something about the issue, but it seems most cities and counties are ambivalent about other cities and counties. All we can do is wait and see, and hope that someone farsighted enough to realize that more money will be lost due to lack of business due to a rise in the crime rate than would be saved by removing the police station. We might have a long time to wait.

posted by Poagao at 3:24 am  

1 Comment

  1. thats the problem with Taiwan, where everything has to be done wtih a political consideration. It seems that nothing is for the people’s interests.

    Comment by Donivan Hsiao — August 17, 2007 @ 12:55 am

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