No godfathers, just petty crimes by 10,000 gangs

UNLIKE the mafia of Italy or the yazuka in Japan, most gangs here lack proper organisation and financial backing to engage in large-scale criminal activities.

There are no godfathers in Indonesia. The gangs here are amorphous and ad hoc in nature – “rising and falling almost immediately”, as Indonesian Interpol chief, Brigadier-General Ahwil Luthan, put it.

He told Sunday Review that these criminals usually made their presence felt in small ways, by demanding protection money and engaging in petty theft.

Newspaper reports indicate that gangs also engage in drug trafficking, kidnapping and murder. Recent cases include the massacre of a family in a revenge killing, and the rape and murder of a six-year-old girl in Jakarta.

But these are rare incidents, according to the Indonesian military, which has adopted a hardline approach to curb such gang activities.

More than 10 years ago, it was reported that military marksmen hunted down underworld figures across the archipelago on “search and kill” missions.

Today, the methods used are more refined. Regular anti-crime sweeps are conducted in major cities. Strict gun laws have also made it difficult for gangsters to arm themselves, said Brig-Gen Ahwil.

Police spokesman Brig-Gen Nurfaizi said that most gangs were defined according to locale and ethnic identity.

It is not uncommon to find gangs with strongholds in big cities like Jakarta, Medan, Surabaya and Bandung, but they do not have the resources to operate nationally or internationally.

Reports indicate that there are more than 10,000 gangs throughout Indonesia.

Their members tend to be male, uneducated, unemployed and between the ages of 18 and 25.

Aside from petty crimes, the authorities also consider them a nuisance because of the violence they cause as a result of their turf wars.

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