By Elan Perumal and Stuart Michael
THE notorious jaga kereta boys are making a comeback in Kuala Lumpur after lying low for a few years following extensive tough enforcement action by the local authorities.
Motorists are obviously upset with the increasingly rampant extortion at public places and are worried about the safety of their vehicles if they do not pay these unscrupulous people.
IN THE OPEN: This illegal car park operator is taking money from a motorist who had just alighted in Tengkat Tong Shin behind Jalan Alor in KL.
The jaga kereta boys are seen all over the places in the capital city, at the major shopping areas such as Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman and at the popular eating places.
They operate both during the day and at night, depending on the area, demanding a fee from motorists who park their vehicles around the shopping areas and eating places.
A StarMetro team conducted random checks at several public places in the city and discovered that the jaga kereta boys were openly collecting parking charges from motorists.
The checks show that the jaga kereta menace is widespread in the city, especially at areas such as Lorong Gombak behind the Colliseum theatre, the Jalan Telawi area in Bangsar, Ampang Point, Kampung Baru, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Heritage Row and other popular public places.
Most of the jaga kereta boys station themselves at the public parking bays after office hours and solicit money from the motorists.
Their charges vary from place to place, the lowest being RM2 and the highest RM5.
The StarMetro team had several personal encounters with several jaga kereta boys who appeared to be uncompromising with their demands.
At one such encounter at Lorong Gombak, the jaga kereta boy demanded RM3 for parking along a backlane which is not even a legal parking area.
Asked why the team should pay for parking at a public lane, he said that everyone had to pay him for parking in the area and there was no exception.
The jaga kereta boy walked away after the team insisted on refusing to pay him. As he moved on, he said, "It's up to you, you can pay if you wish to," obviously a veiled threat that the team's vehicle might not be safe.
The jaga kereta boy then walked away and continued collecting money from other motorists.
A motorist who identified himself only as Chong said that he was forced to pay to the jaga kereta boys as he feared that his car would be scratched or damaged if he did not pay them.
Chong said that he had some bad experiences with the jaga kereta boys who deliberately scratched his vehicle after he refused to pay them.
"I rather pay them the RM3 or RM5 than having my car damaged," Chong said when met at Jalan Bukit Bintang
A resident from Tengkat Tong Shin said that the jaga kereta boy had punctured his car tyres after he refused to pay them.
According to him, there are about 10 jaga kereta boys operating around the area and they go around collecting parking fees during lunch hours.
He said the jaga kereta boys were mostly drug addicts and unemployed persons trying to extort cash from motorists who were worried about the safety of their vehicles.
Dale, who works at Lorong Mamanda 1 at Ampang Point, said some of the jaga kereta boys were well attired and neat.
He had often seen them splitting their collections before going for tea and lunch breaks.
"They act like executives as they do not show up under the heat of the sun or rain," he said.
PAY UP QUICK: An illegal car park operator collecting money from a motorist at Lorong Mamanda 1 in Ampang Point.
Another motorist from Ampang said he was furious that these people were operating openly during the day at public car parks.
He said they even collected money for vehicles parked at metered parking lots.
Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) deputy director (services) Datuk Amin Nordin said the DBKL had conducted numerous enforcement raids against the jaga kereta boys.
According to Amin, last year, the DBKL rounded up 277 suspects and in 2007, it nabbed 242 of them.
"They were charged under the Section 50(3) of Road Transport Act 1983, with some given fines and some jailed," Amin said.
Amin urged the public to cooperate with the authorities by abstaining from paying the jaga kereta boys.
He said that as the authorities took tough action to get rid of the jaga kereta boys, the motorists must co-operate and play their part by not giving in to their demands.
Those with information on the illegal activity are advised to alert the DBKL by calling its hotline at 03-2617 9925 or 2617 9810.
-The Star/Asia News Network
Photos: The Star