Since last year, the nation has been witnessing some horrendous criminal activities. The torturous murder of military peacekeeper, Major Maxwell Mahama comes to mind but the situation has not abated in this new year.
Since January alone, close 90 robbery cases have been recorded in different parts of the country, some resulting in instant killing, rape or physical abuse of the victims. Government has since stood up to the occasion in allaying fears of the citizenry and assuring them it is on top of the situation.
Serving, retired and private security experts have all opined ways of curbing the menace. I am not a security expert but as an ordinary citizen, I am proposing the following as practical measures to eliminate or drastically reduce criminal activities in our cities, towns and communities.
- Fix bad roads
It is a known fact that greater portion of our roads, especially those within our communities and residential areas are not in the best of shape. The roads are either untarred or rendered unmotorable by potholes. In a situation where, armed gangs have access to four-wheel or motorbikes, such bad road network offer opportunity for them to perpetuate their criminal activities, often outwitting even the police who may be using rickety vehicles. It is therefore not surprising police reports that less armed robberies or gang attacks take place in residential areas with well-tarred roads than in communities where their roads are in deplorable state. The Ministry of Roads, Highways, and their relevant departments and agencies must see it as their call in the fight against crime.
- Fix street lights
Take a drive through many parts of Accra and you will see how dark the entire city is at night and it is worse in communities where people live. The practice has been that even though every electricity user is billed for streetlighting, we hardly benefit from it. across the country, most places are very dark at night and this obviously promotes insecurity and crime. Apart from the state ensuring that major parts of town and cities are illuminated, isn’t it possible to have a national scheme that will aid citizens to install streetlights in frontage of their houses, along the streets and in their communities at very cheap or no cost? It is also a fact that well-lite communities record less crime than dark areas. Let’s fix the streetlights.
- Equip the police
The regular complaints of not only the police but all our security agencies have to do with the absence or lack of requisite equipment and tools to do their work. In the case of the police, who are charged with internal herculean task of ensuring security provision of working equipment is very essential. The police need robust vehicles, modern and sophisticated communications facilities, modern weapons, and adequate fuel to move about and do their job. Equally important is the quantity of these items. It is absolute nonsense to provide only four bullets to a police office on guard duty at a sensitive place like a bank. Again, it does not make sense to give such a police officer outmoded weapon whilst the modern ones being used to protect senior officers within the service. if there are no citizens, there will be no police service. We must prioritize the safety of the very people we employed to protect whose taxes are used to pay us.
- Man all porous borders
Somewhere early this year, I read a scary report in one of the newspapers to the effect that this country has 190 borders or entry points that are porously manned. And the chief among the reasons is that we lack adequate Immigration and Custom personnel to post to these areas. As a result, the entire nation has been exposed to the plans and workings of enemies of the state, both internal and external. The Ghana Immigration Service and the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority must be given the men, adequately armed to man our entry and exit routes. We must do everything possible to protect the territorial integrity of our great nation.
- Tighten arms inflows and movements
In June 2014, the government of Ghana through the ministry of defence issued an alert that there were significant arms movement into the three northern regions. Defence Minister at the time, Mark Wayongo said intelligence indicated the arms were mostly from southern Ghana, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire and Togo to the Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions. In My 2016, there was another report by the Ghana National Commission for Small Arms that Kumasi was becoming an attraction for arms movement. Over the years, there have been persistent reports about brisk trading in locally manufactured weapons and in all of these, whether imported or locally manufactured, who is ensuring these weapons are properly monitored especially as to their movements? Are we sure they land in right hands? The security and intelligence agencies ought to wake up.
- Intensify controls on illicit drugs inflows, sale and usage.
For many years, our country has been a major transit point for illicit drugs such as cocaine, cannabis, marijuana and lately shisha. The harmful impact of these drugs on their users are known to all of us but even though the Narcotics Control Board does what it could to stop inflows and movements especially through the Kotoka International Airport, there are still significant presence of these substances on the market, freely patronised and often used to aid the commitment of crime. In many instances, the police upon a search on suspected criminals find one substance or another either on their body or in their places of abode. On the 19th of March this year, the Ashanti Regional Police Commander, COP Ken Yeboah for instance is reported to have told a radio station that armed robbers have now resorted to the use of Tramadol which gives them the boldness with which they carry out their operations. I was therefore excited to read in the Dily Graphic of 21st March 2018 that the European Union is funding a $14 million project against drug trafficking and transnational crime in the ECOWAS region and that Ghana has been selected as first member state to benefit from the project. To borrow the words of the Acting Executive Secretary of the Narcotics Control Board, Mr Francis Torkornoo, “The criminals are employing sophisticated and modern ways of going about their activities and so we must keep upgrading our systems and strategies”. We are expecting our state institutions such as the Ghana Police Service, the Custom Division of GRA, Narcotics Control Board, the Financial Intelligence Unit and the Economic and Organised Crime Office to step up control.
- Increase police visibility
So, we continue to mention the name of former Police Inspector-General, Mohammed Alhassan who introduced the noble concept of Police Visibility and went ahead to create a unit for it within the police service. immediately he left office, the idea seems to have been abandoned but the fact that even in advanced countries, police or security personnel are visibly positioned in vantage locations should tell anyone who is concerned about the rising crime rate in Ghana that we must revisit the concept. Thankfully, government has said it is going to augment the police numbers with additional 4,000 men and women. Let us see and feel the presence of police officers in all our nooks and crannies to foil all planned.
- Revamp community police concept
Close to the Visibility Police concept is the Community Policing concept also introduced by a different head of the police service. it was to ensure that as the service embraces contemporary policing, the gap between them and the people are bridged so that community people get to see a police office either walking, on bicycle or driving interacting regularly with them. We must revisit the concept and bring it back because like I have said it earlier, the mere presence or sight of a police officer wards off or scares a criminal.
- Encourage formation of neighbourhood watchdog committees.
The police service in times past spearheaded the formation of Neighbourhood Watchdog Committees in different parts of the country. The construction of many police posts and stations were supported by those committees but that spirit has also gone down. Every community, whether there is a police station or not, must be encouraged to have such a committee, discuss safety and security issues among themselves, look out for each other and work with the police when the issues are beyond them. that way, the communities get rid of common criminals who are afraid of being exposed by members of that committee.
- Encourage electronic banking.
We are in the ICT era and digitalisation has simplified life for mankind. In the banking sector, many efforts have been made to make it cashless and less of human interference. Today, you can sit in your office or home and upload a banking application on your mobile phone that can make it possible for you to move cash from your bank account to your mobile money wallet for spending. You can pay all utility bills and transactions without your physical presence in a bank. Why people still want to be physically at banks to withdraw huge sums and be targets of criminals, I simply don’t get it. maybe the Bank of Ghana, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Communications must do more to educate the populace on these issues.
- Personal security and safety consciousness.
Many of us have placed our fate and destiny in the hands of police officers or state security officials. That is wrong. Wherever we find ourselves, we must prioritise our own safety and security first. Your car must have alarm system. It does not cost so much to fix a street light around your house. Dogs are not too expensive and above all we must be prayerful, alert and very observant.
- De-politicise security issues and recruitment
And why do we take delight in bringing politics into everything including security issues? Why must we have a new police head anytime there is new Head of State? Why have we allowed politics into the police service with the recruitment of NPP police and NDC police? When armed attackers get into our rooms at dawn, do they demand to know the political affiliation or party card of their victims before attacking them? let us think twice.
- Ban sale of weapons like knives, machete on the street
Anytime I drive on the streets of Accra, I see knives and machete being sold openly. I had always thought those were weapons and as such their sale and patronage ought to be regulated somehow. Who will take up this important task?
- Protection for whistle-blowers
The police have often said that to be able to fight crime successfully, information is key but there have been several instances that the same police have failed to protect persons who volunteer information to them. there are even reports that the identity of informants has been released to criminals who upon their release from jail or cell, go straight to attack the informants. Can this be improved too?
- Deployment of CCTV on Highways and major roads and facilities
In many advanced countries, we hear stories about how criminals were apprehended with the aid of Close Circuit Television Monitors, otherwise known as CCTV. The culture is gradually catching up with us, but the plain truth is, we cannot afford not to have it. Just few days ago, I read a story about how the recordings of the CCTV at the Kotoka International Airport aided in the arrest of a taxi driver who picked up an American visitor to Ghana and along the way absconded with his luggage and money. He was eventually arrested while driving to somewhere in the Volta Region. And therefore, I am elated that government is going to deploy 8,700 CCTV Cameras across the country to fight crime. Solid idea I think but it will only be so if we do not treat the CCTV monitors same way we treat our traffic lights. We will not fix them when they are faulty and will manipulate the outputs for our selfish gains. But most importantly, of what good will an image of a criminal captured on a CCTV be if it cannot be analysed, identified and traced? We must do everything possible to link the CCTV project to the National Identification project, the Digital Address project as well as new Driver’s Licencing and Passport regimes. A comprehensive or holistic approach is what is needed to fight crime successfully.
- Speed up national ID programme
We have been on this National Identification project for too long. So much seem to have been sunk into it but we are still unable to properly identify our people. The fight against crime is closely linked to efficient and reliable means of identifying both nationals or foreigners, what they do, where they live and other forensic essentials like fingerprints, signatures and photos. The National I.D exercise is key in crime fighting and government must do all it can to give identification to everyone living in Ghana.
- Revisit the ECWAS FMGP idea
The ECOWAS Free Movement of Goods and People (FMGP) idea was a brilliant until nationals of some west african nations started abusing it. That aside, some ECOWAS countries like Ghana, wanting to be more receptive than any other, seem to have relaxed their internal laws and foreigners, especially west African nationals have taken advantage of it to do what pleases them. within the European Union, there are free movements too but laws are enforced. Can we wake up to the realities?
- Security scans in all public facilities for weapon and other metal detections
It is interesting how in these day and age, sensitive public facilities like Banks grants unhindered access to anyone at all to go in and out. Some may disguise themselves as customers and be in there to observe lapses and opportunities. We may have to consider a scan or metal or weapon detectors in places such as the Malls, Banks, Forex Bureau and even in churches.
- Set up national trauma centre for victims of armed attacks.
Apart from the loss of money and other properties to armed attacks when they occur, one of the things victims who are lucky not to be killed is the issue of dealing with the trauma. In many situations, particularly children and women have been left to deal with such traumatic situations on their own. Some succeed but many others are not and sometimes psychiatric situations sets in. Not every victim may be rich enough to hire Psychologists and Psychiatrists to help them and that is why I am of the view that the setting up of a National Trauma Centre for Armed Attack Victims will go a very long way to asway the pains and agony of victims of armed robbery, rape and any other kind of assault.
- Strong coordination between rent control, national security, landlords, Ghana immigration, and Ghana Post Digital Address system.
I have been asking myself questions. Can’t the Rent Control laws be amended to ensure that by electronic means, copies of all tenancy agreements are lodged somewhere with any of our state agencies? Point is, we must find a way to know where people live just as within a twinkle of an eye we are able to ascertain the ownership of any vehicle on our road without even the user knowing. Crime is becoming sophisticated and we must be sophisticated too.
- Improve training on arms usage
The retired senior police officer I listened to on television the day other alleged that out of the 6-months used in training police officers, less than a week is used to train them on arms usage. True? Can’t it be improved?
- Increase police numbers
The United Nations has set a policing standard that one police officer should control a population of 500 people, but Ghana has constantly felt short of this. As at July 2012, the police-population ratio in Ghana had improved marginally from one police to 976 people to one police to 847 people. This is according to the annual progress report of the implementation of the Ghana shared growth and development agenda. So apart from freeze in recruitment by government, regular dismissals for misconducts, the attainment of mandatory retirement age, natural and accidental deaths continue to deplete number of officers with the Ghana police service and this according to Ashanti Regional Police Commander, COP Ken Yeboah is seriously undermining crime fighting in various parts of the country. In that 2012, we had a police strength of 23,204 which increased to 30,635. At almost 29 million population, we have no choice than ensuring that the police service has the required numbers to man the banks, forex bureau, government officials, high ways and patrols at all time of day. We need the men to do the work.
- Speedy trial of criminal cases
One of the many incentives for crime perpetuation is that it often takes too long a time for offenders to be punished and for victims to get justice. Armed robbery and murder trials have taken up to a year or more for trials to be concluded. The saying is that justice delayed is justice denied but even though wed are often assured that the wheels of justice grind slowly, it is imperative that speedy trial is adopted especially in the case of armed related crime. The punitive judgement delivered on time will surely serve as a deterrent to will-be criminals.
- Review security architecture of police stations
Our colonial masters who set up the police force left us several legacies and one of them is the physical architecture of police stations. Because the facility also held criminals, it was always built to be attack-proof. However, modern buildings housing police stations doesn’t seem to follow the old plan. Today, we even have a sensitive security installation like a police station and a cell housed in a metal container. Even where they are made of blocks or concretes, it is not properly fenced.
Stations are without security during some periods of the day. The expectation is that every person, criminals alike must assume that one it is a police station, people will be scared. That is a wrong assumption and perhaps the Kwabenya Police Station attack and subsequent murder of the officer on duty shows all is not well at our police installations. We must not take things for granted. We must ensure at every point in time, there are police officers detailed to man the facility itself, different from the personnel on duty within the facility.
- Incentivise Police officers
Speak to many police personnel about the challenges and they are quick to cite the lack of motivation. They claim promotions delay. Many police officers have accommodation issues. In fact, the poor state of police accommodation facilities such as barracks tells it all. There are police officers who trek several distances to their duty posts. It is about time we find a way to properly incentivise the police officer to enable him or her give off his or her best, especially in the fight against crime. When a police officer is subjected to poor conditions, he becomes vulnerable to inducement, bribery and even compelled to partake or abet in criminal activities.
By Emmanuel J.K Arthur| The author is a media practitioner|[email protected]