Hong Kong’s crime figures dropped to 56,017 cases last year – the lowest since 1975. Violent crimes fell to 9,086 cases – a drop of 10.1 per cent since 2016 – a 45-year low.
However, instances of indecent assault rose by 5.7 per cent to 1,077 in 2017: “The increase was mainly driven by cases that took place at public places, on board public transport or at stations. Police attach great importance to sex crimes, and will continue to step up uniformed and plainclothes patrol, maintain close cooperation with public transport companies,” the police said in a press release.
Cases of missing motor vehicles also rose – up 18 per cent to 511. Meanwhile, “romance scams” saw an uptick with 235 cases recorded – more than double the number in 2016, incurring losses of around HK$108 million.
Street deception cases totalled 90 last year – a 2.6-fold rise since 2016, with losses of HK$7 million recorded. 19 arrests were made in connection with 35 such cases.
Support for officers
Following a tumultuous year for the force, Lo spoke at a Legislative Council Panel on Security meeting on Tuesday and hailed the overall decrease in crime figures.
He also called on the public to understand that officers have emotions and opinions to express.
He said that any “reasonable and legal demands” made by officers would be supported in order to improve legal protections and enable them to better exercise their duties. Lo was responding to suggestions to criminalise insulting police officers.
In total 29 police officers were involved in crimes in 2017, which represented less than 0.1 per cent of the force and a decrease from 2016, Lo said. Fifteen of the officers were involved in criminal offences, three in non-criminal cases such as drunk driving, and the remaining 11 were arrested by other departments.
“Even though, over the past couple of years, my colleagues and I have faced challenges… this will not affect our determination in serving the public. This can be shown by the continual decrease of crime rate in recent years,” Lo said.
“There were more political conflicts in the past years, and as a result – when we’re enforcing the law on the frontlines – we’ve received a lot of unnecessary provocation,” he added.
Lo also said that he will fight for better welfare for police officers and adopt different measures to maintain their morale.
2017 saw the prosecution of retired superintendent Frankly Chu, who in December was found guilty of assaulting pedestrian Osman Cheng with a baton during the Umbrella Movement protests in 2014. He was sentenced to three months in jail in January and is currently released on bail awaiting appeal.
His jailing triggered a protest by police supporters, who demanded that judges be of Chinese nationality and the establishment of a judicial watchdog to monitor the sentences handed out by judges. The judge in the Chu case was Indian-born Principal Magistrate Bina Chainrai.
Lo said he will not comment on Chu’s case as it is currently on appeal, but said that he believed the courts are fair.
Earlier in 2017, seven police officers were also given jail sentences for assaulting democracy activist Ken Tsang at a “dark corner” in Admiralty during the Occupy protests. Their sentences prompted a closed-door mass rally by the police in their support.
The Civil Human Rights Front said in response to Lo’s comments that as the head of the police force, Lo should be aware that the police should not become a tool for resolving political conflicts.
The group also said it was contradictory for the police to, on the one hand say that there has been a decrease in crime rate, but on the other hand purchase weapons.
The government recently announced that the force is to receive three water cannon vehicles costing HK$27 million this year.
Additional reporting: Tom Grundy.