Curbing crime via community policing and neighbourhood watch


nigeria_police_logoBy Emmanuel Acha, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

Kingsley Ubani, a native of Eziama Nsulu in Isiala Ngwa North Local Government Area of Abia was arrested on Nov. 23, 2013 by the Abia Police Command, following a tip-off that the suspect allegedly sold his child.

The man purportedly sold his three-year-old son for N260,000, as part of a Machiavellian plan to raise money for the burial expenses of his late father.

Ubani, who was paraded alongside other crime suspects by the police command, said: “I had no money to bury my father whose body was in the mortuary and I convinced my wife to let us to sell our son.’’

Again, on Dec. 12, 2013, a team of police officers from the Abia Police Command raided an illegal charity home at Umuobia Housing Estate in Olokoro, Umuahia South Local Government Area.

In the operation, the police rescued 18 pregnant teenagers, while arresting the son and daughter-in-law of the proprietress of the illicit charity home.

Mr Usman Tilli, the Commissioner of Police in Abia, said that the police raid was sequel to some intelligence information gathered from some members of the public.

“Upon a tip-off, a team of police officers from our command struck; the squad arrested the suspects and rescued the pregnant teenagers,” he said.

The police chief noted that community policing strategies had been instrumental to the successes which the state police command so far recorded in efforts to curb crime in the state.

Security experts say that community policing and neighbourhood watch focus on crime prevention via some designed strategies.

They note that the strategies include aspects of traditional law enforcement and crime prevention, as well as problem-solving and community engagement measures.

From all indications, the strategies involve multi-faceted processes but observers note that in Abia, the processes entail the formation of the Police Community Relations Committee (PCRC) and vigilance groups with direct links with police in nearly all the rural communities,

However, the security experts insist that even though community policing is a tactic or strategy; it is, however, more of a philosophical approach to how policing is conducted.

This is because community-oriented policing is based on a pragmatic collaboration between law enforcement agencies and communities in efforts to identify and address issues relating to crime and social disorder.

The crime prevention approach also involves volunteer citizen action to boost security of local communities by encouraging citizens to report suspicious activities in their neighbourhoods with a view to reducing crime.

Going from the general to the specifics, Tilli said that the partnership between the police and communities in Abia had been outstanding, adding that such collaboration had led to some commendable feats in policing and crime prevention.

He cited the recovery of three police AK47 riffles, which were taken from two police officers who killed by hoodlums on Dec. 7, 2013 on the Aba-Enugu expressway, as one of the benefits of the police-community collaboration.

“On Dec. 12, 2013, following a tip-off that two suspects on a motorcycle were sighted in a bush at UmuAwa Alaocha, Ohuhu, Umuahia South Local Government Area; police operatives were dispatched to the area and three AK 47 and one military riffle, concealed in a bag and buried in the ground, were recovered,” he said.

Tilli described community policing as an indispensable tool in crime prevention efforts because information, which that could frustrate efforts to commit crime, was usually generated via the community policing approach.

Besides, the police commissioner said that the state police command, through its anti-kidnap team, had been dealing with the rising menace of child traffickers across the state.

“The police gave the child traffickers a hot chase in Aba and parts of Isiala Ngwa; the child traffickers secretly migrated to Olokoro and operated there for four months.

“We got information through the instrumentality of community policing, struck and arrested the suspects and rescued 18 innocent pregnant girls,” Tilli said.

Nevertheless, Mr Chidi Okenyi, the former Chairman, the PCRC of Utako District, Abuja, stressed that community policing was based on the notion that the police was adequately empowered to forestall crime and tackle factors leading to crime.

Okenyi, now a member of the PCRC of Zone 9, Umuahia, said that the central goal of the organisation was the establishment and maintenance of mutual trust and respect between members of the PCRC and the police.

He added that such arrangements would allow the law enforcement agencies to have wider access to valuable information in the community which could aid efforts to prevent and tackle crimes.

“The PCRC is established to assist the Nigeria Police Force in generating information from various communities and backgrounds that are not ordinarily accessible to the police,’’ he said.

Okenyi said that the partnerships formed in support of community crime prevention efforts could also provide a framework for engaging the citizens to aid the police in plans to identify possible terrorist threats.

He, nonetheless, stressed that apart from developing partnerships between law enforcement and citizens, effective community policing should also involve inter-governmental and inter-agency collaborations among state and federal agencies.

He underscored the need for such partnerships in efforts to collect and exchange intelligence, identify threats and share resources in the event of an attack.

He noted that community policing was so effective in Abia, stressing that members of the public had formed a formidable synergy with the police in efforts to generate the desired information which would strengthen efforts to curb crime and criminal tendencies in the state.

Sharing similar sentiments, Mr Sampson Onwuka, the Head of Ohafia Vigilance Services in Ohafia Local Government Area, said that the traditional crime-watch system, which relied on the age-grade system in rural communities, had been useful in efforts to maintain law and order in most localities.

To facilitate the success of the strategy, Onwuka underscored the need for “absolute trust between members of the vigilance groups and the police so as to guarantee that any information, which the groups provide, is handled with utmost secrecy”.

He said that the success of the activities of the PCRC depended on the understanding between the police and members of the committee, with a view to building and maintaining mutual trust.

“There should be understanding about what the PCRC stands for and one has to be careful about who you give information to, so as to ensure that such information will not turn back to haunt you,” he said.

All the same, Onwuka regretted that the PCRC had not been able to achieve much because of the wrong societal perception of the roles of members of the organisation.

“Some members don’t have any cogent reason for belonging to the PCRC other than selfish reasons such as personal protection; they also use the organisation as a platform for intimidation and selfish aggrandisement,” he said.

Okenyi urged the PCRC and other traditional forms of community policing to restructure their objectives and form better synergy with the police.

“Government should make it compulsory for those that are most vulnerable to attacks, including banks and other corporate organisations, to sponsor these outfits to encourage the generation of reliable security information from rural communities,” he said.

Due to the increasing menace of neighbourhood crime and terrorism in the country, security experts underscore the need to encourage community partnerships, citizen involvement, problem solving and the transformation of the PCRC in efforts to make community policing more effective and purposeful.

They insist that all the key elements of community policing should be part of a comprehensive internal security blueprint put in place for the country.




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