On frontline of fight against crime

Updated: 2013-08-13 23:44

By Cui Jia (China Daily)

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The shadows lengthened as evening fell and officer Yue Chaoqun discussed his work, its demands and rewards, as he drove a police van.

Yue patrols the bustling streets of Erdaoqiao in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region capital, Urumqi.

On frontline of fight against crime

Urumqi police officer Yue Chaoqun chats with an employee at a local Xinhua bookstore during a fire-safety checkup.Cui Meng / China Daily

Suddenly, Yue stopped talking and turned on the siren after seeing a group being chased.

"Hold tight," the 30-year-old said while he made a sharp turn in pursuit.

The group separated and soon disappeared into the small alleys.

Yue made inquiries and reported the incident to the police station. It turned out that the people being chased were street con artists.

Erdaoqiao is the equivalent of the Tian'anmen area of Beijing, said Yu Xinhong, deputy director of the Nanguan police station, which oversees the area.

"Our officers, like Yue, are constantly under pressure because the daily floating population could reach 100,000."

Yu said Nanguan station, with 105 officers, is on the frontline in the fight against crime and terror.

Erdaoqiao was one of the worst hit areas during the July 5 riot in 2009, which left 197 people dead. After the riot, a command and coordination center was set up on the fifth floor of the station where different departments, including police and special forces, can immediately be dispatched to tackle emergencies.

After the terror attack on a police station in Lukqun township, Turpan prefecture, on June 26, all officers from Nanguan were required to carry arms.

"The majority of the residents in the area are Uygurs, so we have to be careful to avoid any escalation in tension,"Yue said as he dispersed a crowd of onlookers who had gathered on the street.

Once, while on plainclothes duty, Yue apprehended a thief who had just stolen from a store.

As he waited for backup, the thief told the crowd that had quickly gathered that he was being held for no reason.

"Many people in the crowd started to shout and point their fingers at me but I just told them there is no ethnic group when it comes to law enforcement. Everyone is equal." The suspect and his colleagues were later charged with theft.

But Yue said being misunderstood can leave a bitter taste.

Lu Wenlong, director of Nanguan station, said the officers have to deal with all sorts of incidents, from armed attacks to fire hazards. "Officers have no time to rest. Working long hours is common."

Ahmettohut Metturson, 45, director of a police station in south Xinjiang's Hotan prefecture, died of a heart attack on July 12 after working non-stop for 26 days.

"Many officers in Nanguan have worked more than 26 straight days since June and a lot have work-related diseases. We have all become workaholics because we have to protect people and prevent bloodshed from happening again," said Lu who vividly remembered the July 5 riot.

"I sleep with my handheld transceiver on. I feel nervous without its sound."

After the chase crowd dispersed, Yue drove his van back to the station to check on four suspects he had arrested for burglary in the morning.

Yue's wife, Chang Minhui, 26, gave birth to a baby boy on July 31. "I cannot remember the last time when we had dinner together without voices from the transceiver," Chang said.

Yue's shift normally starts at 10 am and ends at 2 am, sometimes seven days a week.

Lu hopes the authorities allow some days off for officers and increase their salaries. "Overworked and stressed officers might misjudge situations and the frontline officers deserve better pay for their hard work."