Ayuthaya police have a new weapon in the fight against crime.
Black-clad men armed with M16 assault rifles, part of Ayutthaya’s new crimebuster unit. Patrol police are scaring criminals into submission.
They have set up a new crimebuster unit of 12 heavily-built men carrying M16 assault rifles to patrol the streets.
While Bangkok has opted for ja choey _ dummy police officers who look like the real thing to serve as a deterrent against crime _ their counterparts in Ayutthaya have taken the intimidatory factor a step further.
Officers from the unit go on daily patrols, making frequent appearances in areas prone to criminal activity.
Ayutthaya police chief Kon-ek Phetchaiyawet said the stern-looking image of the men from the crimebuster unit appears to be working.
"Since the crimebuster unit went out on the streets for the first time in October, the number of crimes has fallen dramatically," Pol Maj Gen Kon-ek said.
Before the unit started work, two to three tourists were falling victim to pickpocketers every day, he said. Gangs throwing rocks at passing cars were notorious, as were thefts at petrol stations and shops. "Ayutthaya's law enforcement was lax," Pol Maj Gen Kon-ek admitted.
Ayutthaya police chief Kon-ek Phetchaiyawet believes armed police on the streets will scare away criminals.
Police waited for crimes to happen while laws were not strictly enforced.
Pol Maj Gen Kon-ek formed the crimebuster team to give law enforcement in the town a tougher image.
Twelve well-built officers were chosen for the job.
They wear black sunglasses, black uniforms with bullet-proof vests and carry M16 assault rifles.
The crimebuster unit is divided into six patrols. Officers patrol in pairs, starting at 9pm and carrying through to the next morning.
They target areas most prone to criminal activity. These areas are under the supervision of Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Bang Pahan, Uthai, Wang Noi, Phra In Rat and Bang Pa-in police stations.
Officers from these stations and nearby areas have been told to help the crimebuster unit make arrests, Pol Maj Gen Kon-ek said.
The men in black serve as a "front unit" dispersed in target areas, appearing frequently where suspects gather to reduce the chances of crime.
Pol Maj Gen Kon-ek said police are still encouraging the public to take part in efforts to tackle crime by giving tips to officers and helping police look out for suspicious activity.
However, there is no better way to fight crime in the province than scaring suspects with M16 assault rifles, he says.
"Pickpocketers have disappeared and no serious crimes have been reported for months," Pol Maj Gen Kon-ek said, adding the unit's joint operation with other police at checkpoints has led to the seizure of 70 firearms.
He hopes the crackdown will eventually turn areas where crimes are often reported into safety zones.
These areas include the Phukhao Thong area, a gathering point of motorcycle and street racing gangs, the Grand Market, which is popular with tourists, and the Ko Mueang area, which is the province's historical zone.
Asked whether the use of M16 assault rifles will mar the image of Ayutthaya as a tourist province, Pol Maj Gen insisted worries about the city's image can be overblown.
"M16 assault rifles do not look too violent," he insisted.
Police need to use such weapons to tackle serious crimes, he said.
In fact, the crimebuster unit is being cited as a model for suppressing crimes under Provincial Police Region 1, which covers provinces in the Central Plains, he said.
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- Writer: Wassayos Ngamkham