Community Crime Watch: A Proven Crime Stopper

By Gbe Sneh

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
August 17, 2006


With the crime rate soaring in the country, we need to get the whole nation involved to help alleviate this nagging problem that, if allowed to continue, could have serious repercussions. Poof goes our efforts to put a dent in a staggering unemployment rate due to an insecure environment that is adverse to attracting foreign investments; out of the window goes the establishment of the rule of law; and rising from the wake is vigilantism.

Vigilantism, generally spurred by an absence of adequate security, is widely known in our society and, has been used many times in our history, especially in inner-city Monrovia. We are all familiar with the trigger word, “ROGUE”, and the results it has produced. Vigilantism is only dreaded because it does not recognize “innocent until proven guilty”; it discards the likelihood of catching an innocent in its fangs; it has airs of lawlessness. It must be discouraged at all cost, as there is a sensible way for the people to take matters into their hands - COMMUNITY CRIME WATCH is the option.

Out of frustration from incessant crime, some districts are threatening to organize vigilante groups to police their districts. The frustration is understandable but, the proposed remedy is unwise, for obvious reasons stated earlier. Other districts want to stage sit-ins at the UNMIL command office to demonstrate an urgency for that security unit to take action on crime in their districts. While a sit-in is a reserved right, a more effective measure would be a citizens’ resolve to help in combating the crime wave.

Let’s do in the cities what has worked at the village level for generations. We are a society that is communal by nature This trait is world acclaimed and well documented. Why do we toss this essential trait out of the window when we leave the villages to turn “kwi” in Monrovia? There are no security forces in the village, except for a few stray ones that occasionally come in to extract free chicken and pussawa from the people. So, how have villagers managed to keep crime in check? Community Policing has been the answer! Everybody in the village is a crime watcher! .

It is time to break the policing of crime into community watch groups. The security forces - UNMIL, LNP, NSA - need to urgently look at organizing neighborhoods crime watch. It is a proven method of fighting crime when regular security shows signs of inadequacy. Here is a case in point. At the Buduburam Refugee Camp in Ghana, where a ballooning occupancy of war-fleeing Liberians brought with it a wave of crimes amid scanty formal policing, neighborhood crime watch was the answer. It was a concerted effort by the local police and the residents of the camp. Today, Liberians at the camp complain less about burglaries and robberies. They are now free to move about any time of the day, using their time wisely to place overseas calls, day and night, to relatives in the US to ask for “small something”.

One would quickly question the viability of a crime watch in the face of armed robbers. But, the idea is not to engage the bandits in a house to house, sidewalk to sidewalk, alley by alley shootout. It is a reporting undertaking. The patrols in a neighborhood crime watch start with knowing their territory very well. This means achieving full acquaintance with members of the community, an exercise that helps in gaining a pretty good knowledge of what inhabitants do for a living. It also helps to identify “stray cats” (mal-intentioned outsiders) and their forays into the neighborhood at questionable hours. Patrol working tools should include, cameras, flashlights, cell phones or walkie-talkies with links to a neighborhood command center and the LNP/UNMIL.

A robust crime watch program is needed. An all-out effort must be made to get the public involved. Town meetings, workshops, radio broadcasts, print media, the local business community, should all become instrumental in combating the break-away crime wave. It is the basic foundation of our hard-earned peace, along with our development effort that is at stake. GOL should lend full support to neighborhood crime watch programs, even if it means funding small budgets for them.

An effective measure in fighting crime is the tracking of stolen goods throughout the various communities. A good description of a stolen item presents a good chance for its recovery, and a possible nabbing of the thief. A crime watch patrol should have a list of reported stolen items in the neighborhood. Networking should be encouraged among crime watch groups and security forces.

It is encouraging that the House of Representatives is contemplating making armed robbery a capital offense punishable by death. Well, maybe, in cases where the robbery results is the loss of life, the death penalty would do. Other than that, a very long to life sentence would suffice. That’s up for debate. Illegal possession of firearms should also be met with a stiff penalty.

Now, it is just a crime wave. But, if we all sit and wait for action that is not forthcoming from our security forces, pretty soon, it will be a tsunami! We do not want Monrovia to turn into another Baghdad. Do we? We must all get involved. Let’s live up to our global notoriety, “IT TAKES A VILLAGE…” Is there anymore to be said?.

I want to take the opportunity to thank UNMIL for constructing a Security Command Post at Guthrie. Now, that’s listening to the people, a giant step in curbing lawlessness.

© 2006 by The Perspective

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