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Serving the Community

How I helped fight crime in Malaysia.

By John Lau, DTM, PIP

The Sarawak Community Policing Association
Past International President John Lau (front row, center) poses with police and volunteers of The Sarawak Community Policing Association in Malaysia. The volunteers work with the police in crime prevention.

Back in August 2014, when I stepped down as Immediate Past International President of Toastmasters International, I was often asked if I would serve the organization in a different capacity. In response, I smiled and said I would continue to apply my Toastmasters skills in service to my community.

Toastmasters gave me the opportunity to travel the world in my role on the Board’s Executive Committee. I met lots of people from different walks of life. One thing that struck me when visiting different neighborhoods was that every citizen plays an important role in crime prevention. With this idea in mind, I started the conversation with my friends about keeping our community safe here in the state of Sarawak, Malaysia. Using the communication and leadership skills I learned in Toastmasters, I was able to recruit many friends to volunteer and our Community Policing Association was launched on March 1, 2015, in the presence of senior police officers. We received the Malaysia Registrar of Society approval on May 28, 2015. Since then, our membership has grown and community policing has spread through Sarawak. The Sarawak Community Policing Association (SCPA) is a voluntary organization with leaders and members working with the police in crime prevention. Our members work from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. during weekends. 

For a crime to be successfully committed, three elements must exist—a desire (the criminal), a target (the victim) and an opportunity (the circumstance). 

Thus, by reducing the opportunities for a criminal to target community members, the number of crimes will be greatly reduced. When a society is peaceful and the environment free from fears and worries, people can focus on their family and work. Our members act as eyes and ears for the police. They have created a powerful synergy between police and residents that discourages criminal activity. Our goal is to assist the police and reduce crime by five percent every year. So far, the latest statistics indicate that crime in the state of Sarawak was reduced by more than 12 percent.

Using the communication and leadership skills I learned in Toastmasters, I was able to recruit many friends to volunteer for our Community Policing Association.

The community-based policing we have started will serve as a helpful support system for the police. And of course, public participation in community policing is a vital cog in the wheel of crime prevention.

To date, we have 134 community ­policing units that use social media to alert members of our team and improve the communication between them. In addition to night patrol, we educate members of the public on crime prevention strategies and distribute crime prevention leaflets in three languages—English, Mandarin and Malaysia language.

We have been getting good feedback on our proactive approach and we keep adding new units and new members to our team. This way I’m using the communication and leadership skills I honed in Toastmasters to benefit the community.

To learn more about Lau, see his interview in the September 2012 issue of Toastmaster magazine.