Bali cops cleared to shoot predators of tourists on sight

If you're one of Bali's 2.2 million annual foreign visitors, please feel assured that island authorities are looking out for your safety.

If you're a Balinese criminal, or might be confused with one, don't stand near anyone wearing a backpack.

Bali's police chief told the Jakarta Globe that officers are cleared to shoot on sight anyone suspected of preying on tourists.

The chief has embraced extrajudicial shooting in the wake of an island crime wave. The final straw? An American's stabbing during a 3 a.m. home invasion by two men clad in ninja masks, the paper reports.

The rise in crime threatens Bali's tourism image, the chief reportedly said. The Globe's report is matched with an op-ed backing the decision and insisting the "urgency of dealing with the rising crime rate on the island cannot be overstated."

Bali's reputation as a safe Indonesian isle, blessed with beauty and wreathed in mysticism, has been offset by a gruesome Islamic terrorist attack in 2002 and a pan-Asian SARS scare. But the island regained its momentum in recent years with the help of "Eat, Pray, Love" a book-turned-Hollywood feature whose female protagonist falls in love with the island. The Globe op-ed says Bali "is once again buzzing."

Regardless of locals' reaction to this policy, it's a massive risk. Best case scenario? Overnight, criminals are frightened away from preying on tourists and no one gets hurt.

Worst case scenario? A perpetrator commits a minor-league crime (think pickpocketing, not knife-wielding ninja robbery). He flees and gets blown away by a Bali cop. Then comes scrutiny from the media and the familiar cast of watchdogs: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, etc. And then foreign tourists' attention is turned not only towards Bali's crime wave but the harsh response from police.

That sequence of events, far from impossible, would undermine the shoot-on-sight policy's intent and make tourists in Bali feel even less safe.