Traders say the problem became noticeable after the police headquarters was relocated.
They say this has reduced the area’s attractiveness to tourists and affected business badly.
Most of the businessmen who spoke to FMT said they began noticing the spike in crime soon after the Brickfields district police headquarters was moved to Sri Petaling.
The most prevalent crime appears to be snatch theft.
P Ashok Kumar, who has a shop selling mobile phones, said he would hear of at least three snatch thefts every week.
“Nowadays, I advise my customers to remove their jewellery for their own safety,” he said.
He said most of the victims were foreigners, and reasoned that this was because foreigners were more unlikely than locals to go through the hassle of lodging police reports.
He also complained of an increase in the number of youths loitering, drinking and littering in the area, especially in the late hours of the night.
“Every morning I have to clear away liquor bottles from the area outside my store,” he said. “Many times these drunkards vomit and even urinate outside my shop.”
When the police headquarters was still there, he said, such occurrences were rare as policemen would patrol the area often.
A 60-year old barber said snatch thefts had become so rampant that people were scared even to stand outside the shops.
“It doesn’t matter whether if you’re a man or woman,” he said. “And even temple areas are not spared.”
Relating an incident that happened last week, he said he heard a woman screaming and, together with a few other people, rushed in the direction of the sound. It turned out to be a tourist whose necklace had been snatched by a motorcyclist.
“We couldn’t help her,” he said. “By the time we could get to her, the perpetrator had sped off.”
He also spoke of drunken youths causing a ruckus outside a Buddhist temple last weekend.
“I don’t know what are our youths up to nowadays,” he said. “I hope the police will bring back the police headquarters here or set up more beat posts at this place.”
A pastry shop owner said many customers who used to frequent his place for its Indian delicacies were now too afraid to make the trip to Brickfields, now that it has acquired the reputation of a haunt for snatch thieves.
Lack of police manpower
“Those are the times when the traffic is not very congested, which will allow them to escape after robbing a person,” said Karuppiah.
He said he had received many complaints about the high crime rate and had witnessed some personally.
He said the council had highlighted the problem to Brickfields district police chief Wan Bari Abdul Wan Khalid at several dialogue sessions. But nothing had changed, he added.
“Wan Bari told us that he lacked manpower,” Karuppiah said. “I can’t really blame him; the current police headquarters is so far away.”
Karuppiah also said many snatch-theft victims were reluctant to lodge a police report because officers at the Travers police station would often tell them to go to Sri Petaling instead.
He said the BBC was mulling a proposal to set up its own security unit in the area.
“If the police are not going to do anything, we might as well take charge of security here,” he said.