The police investigated 438 suspected gaming-related crimes in the first quarter of this year, a year-on-year increase of 14.1 percent from the 384 reported cases in the same period of last year, Secretary for Security Wong Sio Chak announced on Thursday.
However, the policy secretary insisted there was “so far no indication” that gaming-related crimes are causing a threat to the city’s public security beyond the confines of local casinos.
Wong announced the January-March crime statistics during a press conference at the S. Francisco Barracks on Thursday. The Macau Public Security Forces are headquartered at Macau’s erstwhile Portuguese garrison barracks.
According to Wong, the total number of crimes reported in the first quarter dropped 5.2 percent year-on-year, from 3,547 to 3,364.
Wong said that the number of reported violent crime cases rose 8.3 percent year-on-year, from 145 to 157, in the first quarter. He said that except for the increase in the number of violent crime cases, the police recorded a decrease in the numbers of “other major crimes”. He also said that the rise in violent crime cases was mainly due to a 34.4 percent year-on-year increase in false imprisonment cases.
According to Wong, the police investigated 82 suspected cases of false imprisonment during the first three months, a year-on-year increase of 34.4 percent (a rise of 21 cases), 81 cases of which involved loan sharks. Gamblers defaulting on their instant gambling debts are sometimes held against their will by loan sharks in a hotel room or private flat to put pressure on the victims’ family and friends to pay up.
According to the crime statistics for the first quarter released on the website of Wong’s office, the police recorded 128 loan-sharking cases in the first quarter, a year-on-year increase of 19.6 percent (a rise of 21 cases). Wong said during Thursday ’s press conference that all the 128 cases were casino loan-sharking cases, a 25.5 percent increase from the 102 casino loan-sharking cases reported during the first three months of last year.
Wong pointed out that during the first quarter the police have strengthened their efforts in combating loan-sharking crimes and false imprisonment crimes and busted many gangs involved in the two crime categories. Wong mentioned as an example a case in which the police busted a loan-sharking gang controlled by a triad organisation in February when 71 suspects were arrested, saying that the gang were involved in many cases of loan-sharking and false imprisonment.
Wong noted that most of the suspects and victims involved in loan-sharking and false imprisonment cases in the first quarter were not local residents. In the reported false imprisonment cases, 98.1 percent of the suspects and all the victims were non-locals, while in the loan-sharking cases, 92.7 percent of the suspects and 97.6 percent of the victims were not local residents, he said.
Wong emphasised that most of the loan-sharking cases and false imprisonment cases recorded in the first quarter occurred in, or originated from, local casinos and that “there is so far no indication” that the occurrence of the two types of crimes has extended beyond casino activities. He added that consequently these two kinds of crime were still not posing an “obvious” threat to Macau’s public security as a whole.
However, Wong was quick to mention a case which happened early this month in which a gambler defaulting on a gambling loan was beaten to death by loan sharks who had held him against his will in an inn’s guestroom. He admitted that although it was an isolated case, its occurrence had alerted the police to the possible increasing severity of false imprisonment. He pledged that the police will remain vigilant about whether such crimes begin to cause an adverse impact on public security in general.