Despite the increased focus on terrorism following the January 14 terrorist attack in the Sarinah area of Central Jakarta, other crimes such as social conflict, armed robberies and murders continue to cause the most casualties each year in Indonesia.
However, according to crime monitoring by Concord Strategic, incidents for most crime categories decreased in 2015, the first time since we began tracking annual crime rates in 2007 that such a broad decrease was recorded.
The causes for this overall decline in recorded incidents of crime are unclear. It could be a genuine reduction in crimes, a greater focus on professionalism and public service by law enforcers or a lack of reporting of crimes by members of the public.
Either way, it is generally accepted by most criminologists and observers that Indonesian society has a long way to go before it is safer from criminals.
Meanwhile, increased access to technology has seen the proliferation of newer threats, such as cyber crime, bank fraud and other computer-based scams, some of which is being fueled by crime gangs based in other Asian countries.
In compiling this report, Concord applied its own system of monitoring of criminal activity. Our staff searches daily for reports in a wide range of media sources, culling a large number of print and especially internet publications, including little known local titles. This limits our statistics only to crimes which have been reported and to those noted in police blotters.
The Concord Review information service gives you access to a monthly crime report complete with statistics, analysis of trends and crimes reported in each province. Two-week free trial available: http://goo.gl/TurEJo
Some crime categories such as robbery are grossly under-reported, but we believe that reporting of major crimes such as armed robbery and especially social conflict is much closer to the actual level of incidents. A similar system is currently used by the World Bank.
Where raw numbers are short of the real figure, they nevertheless mirror the situation on the ground in a manner that provides valid snapshots of social conditions. In particular, the monitoring system reports crime techniques, an important aid to crime prevention and personal security.
In addition to being a crucial concern for the business community, security remains a fundamental pillar of the political agenda of any Indonesian government. How the government and its security forces deal with crime and horizontal conflict will be a major factor in how it is perceived by the public.
Social conflicts remain the biggest risk to public safety, business activity, political stability and regional development.
According to Concord’s crime monitoring, social conflicts stood at 505 in 2015, a nearly 20% decrease from 602 incidents recorded in 2014 and a 45% drop from 945 social conflicts recorded in 2013.
The 2015 figure was the lowest recorded by Concord since 2009. However, social conflict continued to record the highest number of incidents compared to other crime categories, followed by armed robbery.
The monthly average of social conflicts in 2015 fell to 42 from 50 in the previous year and 78 in 2013.
Notable incidents of social conflict in 2015 included religious violence in Aceh in October, when at least one person was killed in an attack by Islamist hard-liners on a small church accused of lacking official permits in Aceh Singkil regency.
In another religiously-fueled incident, a mosque in Karubaga district, Tolikara, Papua was attacked by Christians on July 17, allegedly in a dispute over the mosque’s loudspeakers during Idul Fitri prayers
A mob of Injili Indonesia Church (GIDI) members threw rocks at the congregation and set fire to the mosque. One person was shot and killed and several others were injured in the violence that followed, allegedly perpetrated by the police.
On July 20, churches in Saman hamlet, Sewon district, Bantul regency, Yogyakarta and Tlepok village in Grabag district, Purworejo regency, Central Java were attacked and burned down, allegedly in retaliation for the Tolikara violence.
The freedoms as well as the legal loopholes of Indonesia’s current democratic society have provided some groups the incentive for acts of crime and vigilantism. The groups receiving most scrutiny and media coverage are vigilant Muslim extremist organizations such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), targeting religious minority groups such as Christian congregations and the Ahmadiyah and Shia Islamic minority sects.
However, an analysis of the drivers of social conflict over the past year shows that religious issues are a relatively minor factor.
Religion was an aspect of only 1% of the 505 social conflicts monitored by Concord during 2015. The biggest driver was student and youth violence, accounting for 22% of all conflicts recorded last year, followed by communal clashes at 16% and land evictions at 14%.
Evidently, Indonesia’s current democratic society faces security challenges from many other groups besides Muslim extremists. These include motorcycle gangs, ethnic-based mass organizations and youth neighborhood gangs fighting over turf or because of historical animosity.
Despite the holding of over 260 regional elections last December 9 and local issues dominating the political discourse last year, only 12 social conflicts, or 2% of the total recorded, were related to politics.
The geographic locations of social conflict also indicate that urban and populous areas dominated conflict figures for 2015.
Jakarta, Makassar in South Sulawesi and West Java, the country’s most-populous province, accounted for one-third of all social conflicts recorded last year.
Jakarta and Makassar were particularly affected by youth and student clashes during 2015, often resulting in minors injured or being killed by their peers in street fights.
This phenomenon peaked during the Muslim-fasting month of Ramadhan in June and July, when youths typically congregate before the pre-dawn meal and schools are on extended holiday during Idul Fitri.
The high number of young people involved in social conflicts in these provinces does not bode well for Indonesia’s future generations, whose career prospects are already limited by a failing educational system and a lack of employment prospects.
Most criminologists agree that incidents of social conflict have decreased over the past year, but the threat remains a serious one.
Iqrak Sulhin, a criminologist from the University of Indonesia in Depok, West Java, told Concord Strategic that he was unsure if the decrease in social conflicts was due to a smarter society or better conflict handling by law enforcers and security personnel.
“One thing we must highlight is that the Indonesian public in general can still be easily provoked. Here any issue, particularly if it’s related to religious beliefs, ethnicity or politics, can be amplified. Private problems easily become public problems,” he said.
Sulhin also blamed the increasing use of social media in Indonesia for exacerbating tensions related to some social conflicts.
“Most of the public is still not smart enough to digest information and many people try to benefit from this condition. We saw this in the hours following the Thamrin terrorist attack on January 14. Several people tried to stir the mud and say that the attack was a cover up related to the PT Freeport Indonesia contract extension negotiation,” he said.
Widespread mistrust in the authorities also encourages people to take justice into their own hands. An absence of police mediation in long-running disputes or even sporadic violent crimes regularly fuels incidents of retaliatory violence at personal and communal levels.
In 2014, at least 300 people were killed and 5,260 others were injured in acts of vigilante justice across the country, according to the National Violence Monitoring System (SNPK). While it is difficult to determine a number for 2015, there were plenty of incidents throughout the year which suggested the trend has been maintained.
For example, in Jambi, one person was killed, 12 huts were damaged and six motorcycles were set on fire during a communal clash in Kungkai Sebrang village, Bangko district, Merangin regency on December 15.
The violence started when a Kungkai villager spat on the ground while passing a member of the nomadic Anak Dalam tribe, who took offense and assaulted him.
Had, hypothetically, the Kungkai villager trusted police to resolve this incident, he may not have returned with a group of fellow villagers to attack the Anak Dalam settlement later that day. Several shots were fired during the clash, hitting two Kungkai villagers, one of whom succumbed to his wounds.
Apparently aware of the risk from social conflict to national security and stability, President Joko Widodo early in his presidency issued a government regulation which aims to improve measures for preventing and responding to social conflicts, including the use of the Armed Forces (TNI).
The Cabinet Secretariat in February 2015 stated that the regulation sets provisions for conflict prevention such as victim rescue and protection, assistance and post-conflict recovery. It also regulates community participation, conflict management funding, monitoring and evaluation.
The regulation states that the central and local governments are responsible for social conflict prevention through maintaining security, developing peaceful resolution systems, reducing the potential for conflict and establishing early warning systems.
The regulation makes subtle changes to the Social Conflict Law passed in mid-2012. When the new regulation was issued, experts said it could have wide implications for the role of the military and the police, two forces whose authority is theoretically divided between matters of national security and external threats, but with some overlapping boundaries and tense relations.
Under the previous regulation, it was the prerogative of local governments to initiate the deployment of military forces during social conflicts, which would also need to be approved by a higher government authority or the president – after consultation with the parliament.
A disconcerting and ambiguous agreement in January 2013 also allowed the police to request the direct help of the TNI, essentially bypassing the chain of command stipulated in the Social Conflict Law. Ironically, both the 2012 law and the agreement were criticized at the time by some lawmakers who labeled it as reminiscent of the New Order of former autocrat Suharto.
The latest regulation allows both local governments and the central government to decide if military force is required to respond to social conflicts, implement sterilization of areas or enforce curfews.
It is unclear if these new provisions were put into use on a wide scale in 2015, with the police the main responders in the vast majority of the social conflicts recorded by Concord Strategic last year.
Social conflict will remain a security concern with all provinces dealing with the issue, but it is clear from the 2015 statistics that the country is hardly at an emergency situation regarding the threat.
However, lingering social tensions, uneven development and a widening wealth gap continue to represent the foundations of potential severe social conflicts.
Besides social conflict, armed robberies are a main crime a concern, especially the use of bladed weapons and firearms during these crimes.
Overall, a total of 430 armed robberies were recorded in 2015, up slightly from 421 in the previous year, but still lower than 496 recorded in 2013 and 618 in 2012.
The 2015 monthly average stood at 35.8 incidents, compared to 35 in 2014, 41.3 in 2013 and 51.5 in 2012.
Sixty-seven people were killed in armed robberies in 2015, compared to 59 fatalities in 2014, 76 in 2013 and 93 in 2012. A total of 213 injuries were recorded in armed robberies in 2015, declining from 215 in 2014, 267 in 2013 and 303 in 2012.
March saw the highest monthly number of armed robberies recorded in 2015 at 50. The number of fatalities recorded that month at 10 was also the highest of the year, while the number of injuries more than tripled to 26 compared to the previous month’s figure.
South Sumatra recorded the most armed robberies last year with 62, followed by West Java and Jakarta.
Concord’s crime data shows several major implications in the relatively high prevalence of armed robberies for general security.
A prominent group of victims of armed robberies last year were people who had just visited a bank or withdrawn money from a bank or ATM, typically in densely-populated areas. Such persons are prone to armed robberies.
It is imperative that sensitive information regarding the movement of cash and other valuables at businesses and households be restricted to only those with a need to know.
Also common is the practice of breaking into cars while their owners are in restaurants or shops, and that of placing nails on the road, then stealing goods or money from inside a vehicle that stops to check a flat tire.
Statistics from last year show that bladed weapons are still the most-commonly used weapon in armed robberies.
Especially in poorer communities, conflicts are often settled by violence involving bladed weapons. The possession and use of knives, daggers and swords is deeply ingrained in the local traditions of many communities.
Bladed weapons were used in 221 of the armed robberies recorded in 2015, or 51% of the total incidents.
Firearms were used in 132 armed robberies recorded in 2015, or around 30% of the total incidents for the year.
Although crime, especially gun crime, is still relatively low in Indonesia compared to many other countries, there is a growing perception among Indonesians that their country is becoming less safe.
The community perception of robbers is also highly negative and frequent cases of robbers being caught and beaten to death creates a situation in which only the most daring criminals are prepared to attempt a crime. This also creates a high likelihood that such persons will resort to violence if opposed.
The conclusion is that victims of armed robberies would be best to submit to the demands of perpetrators rather than be shot or knifed.
One crime category showing flourishing growth is the trade in illegal narcotics.
Officials have said that quantities of drugs seized in raids are increasing, indicating that smugglers are throwing as much product as possible into the country.
Indonesia has become the biggest consumer market for illegal narcotics in Southeast Asia and prices paid for drugs here are high by regional and world standards.
A total of 34,304 narcotics-related cases were uncovered and 42,907 suspects arrested in 2015, according to the National Police.
National Police chief Gen. Badrodin Haiti on January 25 said the suspects comprised 9,457 drug addicts and 41 drug producers in addition to traffickers and dealers.
The figure is a significant increase from 18,788 cases and 25,151 arrested suspects in 2014, he said.
Throughout 2015, Haiti said the police seized 2,360 kg of crystal methamphetamine, 1.26 kg of heroin, 10.5 kg of cocaine, 124 kg of hashish, 1,700 ecstasy pills and over 23 tons of marijuana.
Concord’s monitoring of only major incidents of drug trafficking recorded 194 cases throughout 2015. This represents a further decline from 208 incidents in 2014, 266 in 2013 and 272 in 2012.
The 2015 monthly average of 16.1 major drugs cases also fell from 17.3 cases a month in 2014, 22 in 2013 and 22.6 in 2012.
Several very large seizures of narcotics occurred during 2015, while cases of drug mules being arrested at international airports have decreased compared to previous years. This indicates that narcotics distribution networks are finding other ways to get their products into the country, allegedly through small ports and with the assistance of corrupt government officials.
Crystal methamphetamine continues to dominate the drug market with criminal networks operating from Malaysia, Iran, China and Nigeria. Demand is high and the market appears far from saturated.
Signs have also emerged that drug gangs may be pushing back against increased measures by the government to reduce drug crime and narcotics abuse.
On January 19, a mob of residents besieged three police officers conducting a drug raid at a housing complex in Matraman district, East Jakarta. Two of the officers were injured and the third drowned after jumping into the Ciliwung River to avoid the attack.
On the same day in North Jakarta, two police officers were shot and injured during a separate raid at the home of an alleged drug dealer.
The cases of violence against police officers conducting narcotics raids raise concerns that Indonesia’s war on drugs may be entering a dangerous phase. It also indicates a brazen level of defiance from entrenched drug dealing networks in Jakarta.
Since the middle of last year, the head of the National Narcotics Agency (BNN) has ratcheted up rhetoric against drug criminals and addicts, saying more should be shot, executed or housed in a special prison guarded by a crocodile-infested moat.
The violence against the police in the capital could be a sign that crime syndicates have no intention of rolling over and giving up the estimated $1 billion domestic drug trade without a fight.
Sulhin sees a more disturbing long-term problem if the government and civil society cannot get a better handle on narcotics abuse and related crime.
“Indonesia might not benefit from the so-called demographic bonus due to the drugs problem and its effect on the level of education among the general public,” he said.
He added that President Joko Widodo’s stricter anti-drug policy, and the use of the death penalty for convicted drug smugglers has had little or no deterrent effect.
“It’s ineffective. It just creates an impression that the government is strict in combating drugs but it does not solve the problem, not addressing the root cause,” he added.
Fraud and cyber crime is a growing phenomenon in Indonesia, where access to technology is increasing.
Overall, 80 major fraud cases were recorded by Concord throughout 2015, down from 132 cases in the previous year and 149 in 2013.
The 2015 monthly average of cases stood at 6.6, lower than an average of 11 cases a month in 2014 and 12 in 2013.
While recorded cases of fraud have decreased, many of the incidents observed in 2015 showed signs of increasing sophistication, trans-national links and higher amounts of money stolen from the victims.
Fraud cases in 2015 were dominated by money counterfeiting, document forgery, cyber fraud, and banking and investment fraud. Indonesia remains vulnerable to banking fraud due to lax and outdated security.
Bank Indonesia has postponed a deadline requiring security chips for all bank debit cards and six-digit PINs for credit cards until the end of 2021 and 2017 respectively, which leaves customers’ cards prone to skimming and identify theft.
Outdated legislation, or in some cases simply lenient laws, has also made Indonesia an attractive base for international cyber crime syndicates and a lucrative environment in which to operate.
One of the main trends identified in 2015 was fraud syndicates buying data to perpetrate their crimes rather than ‘phishing’ it directly from customers or hacking databases.
For hackers, selling the data to such syndicates, usually through the untraceable “dark web,” is a safer way of cashing in on their fraudulent achievements. Fraudsters know that victims of the data breach may not realize money has been deducted from their accounts or may be tricked into believing it is their fault.
Crime syndicates using these methods have also innovated over the past year, duplicating for instance SIM cards instead of credit cards to fraudulently obtain valuable banking information from their victims.
Reports of traditional fraud methods, such as rigging ATM machines, have declined slightly in favor of more complex fraud methods but remained an important threat last year. The involvement of international syndicates from Eastern Europe in this type of crime is a new development.
The Indonesian government last October won an extradition appeal for a Bulgarian national wanted for stealing ATM data from hundreds of foreign tourists in Bali after he was arrested in Bosnia. The suspect, Liev Dimitar Nikolov, allegedly led a group of ATM skimmers operating in Indonesia and had been on Europol’s wanted list for several years.
The police said Nikolov and his crew targeted foreign tourists in Bali. The tourists, believed to number at least 500, were mostly unaware that their ATM data had been stolen until they returned to their home countries.
On February 5, 2015, police arrested three alleged members of Nikolov’s syndicate in Bali and in April police in South Jakarta arrested two Bulgarian nationals for attempting to place a skimming device on an ATM.
Police said members of the syndicate would break open an ATM and place a router that allowed the criminals to record the banking information of those using the machine. They also replaced the keypad cover with one equipped with a hidden camera to capture personal identification numbers from customers.
Sources told Concord Strategic that the Bulgarians had a good knowledge of Indonesian legislation and chose to operate in the country due to its lenient laws.
More notorious than Eastern European cyber fraud syndicates are Chinese and Taiwanese crime gangs.
The National Police has apprehended over 600 Chinese and Taiwanese nationals for their alleged involvement in phone and internet-based scams in Indonesia since 2013. That includes at least 254 arrests in 2015 alone.
Although it is not clear if the perpetrators belong to the same syndicates, their techniques appear to be similar.
One modus operandi includes extorting high-ranking officials and businessmen involved in corruption or scandals in Taiwan and China by posing as law enforcement officials. Another method involves duping people into paying fake traffic fines and telling victims that they have won the lottery and asking for their bank details in order to steal money.
While these syndicates appear so far to have mainly swindled overseas victims, there remains a possibility that they may shift targets to Indonesians or foreigners residing in the country.
According to a report from the Cyber Crime Unit of the National Police’s Criminal Investigation Directorate (Bareskrim) on December 19, reports of e-mail fraud, similar to the ones Chinese and Taiwanese syndicates specialize in, significantly increased in 2015 with 208 reports compared to 15 reports in 2012, 26 reports in 2013 and 111 reports in 2014.
Indonesia’s low number of cyber crime detectives may be one of the reasons why crime syndicates from Taiwan and China make the country their base of operations.
Despite the growing threat of cyber crime, Sulhin questioned the need to establish a National Cyber Agency, which is supposed to be operational by the end of 2016.
“We need to question the plan to establish the agency, what’s the urgency and function of the body? We already have the Information and Communication Ministry regulating cyber space and a special unit in the National Police handling the criminal aspect. Those functions must be strengthened,” he said.
He likened the National Cyber Agency to the National Counter-Terrorism Agency (BNPT), which has an unclear function and lacks the authority to make arrests.
Meanwhile, other types of fraud such as counterfeiting of money and documents remained common in 2015.
Cases of fake university diplomas gained media attention last year after a man claiming to be the rector of Sumatera University was arrested in Medan, North Sumatra. The suspect allegedly sold fake university certificates by conducting door-to-door sales. Police said he had sold around 1,200 fake university degrees since 2003, with prices ranging from Rp10 million to Rp40 million.
Cases of counterfeit money also remained frequent with the December 9 simultaneous regional elections providing a new market for fraudsters. Police in December and November arrested 13 people allegedly producing fake currency for vote-buying in the local polls at separate locations in Banten, West Java and Central Java.
Overall, crime statistics in 2015 told a story of perennial social conflicts and financially-motivated crimes, fueled by economic hardship and inequality. These crime trends are not expected to change much during 2016.
Last December, the World Bank released a damning report noting that wealth inequality in Indonesia has reached historic levels, with the potential of creating social tensions, particularly if not enough jobs are created in the coming years to accommodate millions of young people entering the workforce.
The country’s current Gini coefficient, a measure of wealth inequality, stands above the 0.4 level that the UN considers a red alert for social unrest and crime as resentment tends to increase over the high disparity in quality of life.
To be fair, the authorities’ heightened capacity to identify domestic threats, maintained since the 2014 general election, may help explain a drop in the number of social conflicts and other crimes reported in 2015 compared to preceding periods.
Statistics from 2015 also show most crime categories largely following trends that crystallized in 2014 and 2013. These crime and socio-economic trends will continue to impact the overall security climate throughout 2016.