HCMC crime: where the fox guards the henhouse

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The fight against organized crime in Ho Chi Minh City has been made difficult by the fact every case involves government officials, a senior central police official has said.

"There are serious crimes," Major General Nguyen Phi Hung, deputy director of the Anti-Crime Police Department, said at a conference held Wednesday to review the city's fight against crime in the first quarter.

Underworld gangs continue to "influence" some areas and certain local government officials, he said.

Online newspaper VnExpress quoted him as saying that people preferred to hire gangsters to collect debts and for protection rather than rely on the police.

Deputy director of the city police force, Phan Anh Minh, admitted that an anti-crime campaign has produced little result in "some" areas.

"In the fight against robberies, we have been unable to check the consumption of stolen property.

"Ward-level police units have failed to carry out the city People's Committee instruction to check sex workers."

He also admitted the police's inability to prevent smuggling of cigarettes into the city [from Cambodia].

The police suspect that cigarette smugglers bribe authorities but several efforts to investigate have proven fruitless, he said.

"On one major cigarette smuggling route, around 100 smugglers use unregistered motorbikes every day, but we have busted just a few of them.

"We feel ashamed about this."

Speaking about the threat of "terrorism" and "explosions," he said "relevant agencies" should keep a close eye on chemicals that can be bought easily at Kim Bien Market in District 5.

In the first quarter the police had more than 600 officers patrolling the streets around the clock daily.

Between December and March there were 1,467 crimes in which 27 people were killed and 198 others were injured. More than VND59 billion (US$2.8 million) worth property was lost or damaged.

But the number of cases was down by 98 from the previous three months.

Hung instructed the city police to continue with the patrols, warning without elaborating that the incidence of crime could "surge again."

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