By Mbatjiua Ngavirue WINDHOEK In the past one and a half years, City Police Chief Abraham Kotokeni Kanime has faced the daunting task of establishing an entirely new police force almost from scratch. In this time, the new Windhoek City Police force needed to pass several vital tests in its quest to gain credibility among residents of the city. It was necessary for the force to establish a visible presence on the ground, and for the community to start seeing it as a viable, modern, efficient and responsive police force that serves its needs. The new force considers its founding date to have been March 1, 2005 when the City made the first official appointments to the new force. The City Police will, however, only be officially commissioned by President Hifikepunye Pohamba this Saturday, December 9, 2006. They will mark the occasion with parades by officers through the streets of Windhoek tomorrow, Friday, followed by the official ceremony at the Sam Nujoma Stadium tomorrow. Police Chief Kanime recently agreed to an interview in which he gave his assessment of the City Police’s performance so far. The mild-mannered Kanime comes across as a thoughtful, thinking-man’s police officer – not the usual heavy-handed policeman Namibians are accustomed to. The Windhoek Municipality appointed him Manager of Security Services in 2001 and then identified him to become Chief of City Police designate in 2002. The nucleus of the new force resulted from a merger of the City’s Security Services department and the Traffic Division. Before joining the Municipality, Kanime was a deputy commissioner in the Namibian Police and regional commander of the Erongo Region. He says he feels the City and the Namibian Government have so far achieved the objectives they set for themselves when they took the decision to create a new police force for the city. The reason for establishing the City Police, he explained, was to have a law enforcement agency under the control of the Local Authority to complement the efforts of the national police (Nampol) in crime-prevention and law-enforcement. “At this point in time, we have contained crime, especially preventable crimes such as armed robberies, theft out of motor vehicles, housebreaking and crimes against tourists. These crimes now only happen in pockets,” he said. The City Police have found that criminals carry out careful research before they commit crimes and that they are still, unfortunately, able to find gaps between the police and the community. He stressed that this crime-prevention and the combating of crime are not the responsibility of the police alone. “This task cannot be successfully carried out by the police alone without the assistance of the public,” he said. The role of the police is to spearhead the mobilization of the public so it can participate in the provision of information, as well as assist the police in finding solutions to solving crimes that affect a specific neighbourhood. “Once the community does not see itself as part of crime-combating, the police alone cannot achieve anything,” he added. In such a situation, it will be difficult for the police to identify criminals before a crime is committed, because the people in the neighbourhood know the criminals in their community. He said it is only in those areas where the police are closely connected to the public that they are achieving high levels of success in arresting suspected criminals before they commit crimes, or shortly afterwards. The Namibian Police – not the City Police – compile statistics on crime, but the latest figures were not yet available at the time of the interview. According to Kanime, he does not rely on statistics to back his claim that his force is containing crime in the city, but on the feedback he receives from members of the public. He proudly displayed certificates of appreciation received from the Herbst, Rautenbach and Franke Street Neighbourhood Watch in Klein Windhoek in 2005 and 2006, thanking the City Police for bringing down crime in their community. The police have now almost completely eradicated the crimes that were previously very common, such as housebreaking, theft from motor vehicles and robberies from these streets. Kanime gave the assurance that crime did not only take place in high-income areas such as Klein Windhoek but across the city, including the poorest informal settlements. When at full strength, the City Police will consist of 400 staff divided into three main divisions: Crime Prevention with 245 operational officers, Traffic Management Division with 130 members and Finance and Administration with 25 people. For the purposes of crime-prevention, the City is divided into four areas: Western Suburbs Area Command, Katutura-Khomasdal, City-Central and City South-Eastern suburbs. Each area will have its own patrol team of uniformed officers and marked vehicles working on a shift patrol system. The patrol teams will have operational support in the form of plain-clothed officers doing observations, surveillances and clean-up operations. He considers surveillance a vital part of police work because criminals also do their own counter-surveillance to frustrate the efforts of the police. Due to a lack of funds, the Crime-Prevention Division so far only has 160 of the 245 officers it needs, and is therefore only at two-thirds of its required strength. The City recruited its first intake of new members in June 2005 but, because of an urgent demand to put boots on the ground, the new intake only underwent a three-month crash course in policing. They targeted school-leavers and young people from the National Youth Service – all of them untrained. However, Kanime did not see the short training period of just three months as a problem, because they designed the curriculum in such a way as to provide for an in-service training period of 12 months. They will use the same approach in the future, with six months of theoretical training and six months of practical training. They recruited the second intake in June this year, with this group recently completing its training only recently – at the end of November. The City Police will only reach its full strength of 245 officers in the Crime-Prevention Division and 130 in Traffic Management when it inducts the new intake. There are close to 70 vehicles available for crime-prevention, while the traffic division has 95 vehicles at its disposal. The reason for the higher number of vehicles in traffic is that it operates with one officer per vehicle, whereas crime-prevention relies on foot patrols with vehicles only coordinating patrols. According to Kanime, the strategy they are adopting to achieve success is foot patrols in plain clothes, with uniformed officers serving as reaction teams. “They are everywhere, at ATMs, in the CBD, observing riverbeds and different neighbourhoods, as well as tourist attractions,” Kanime revealed. He again emphasized that Nampol and the City police are meant to complement each other. For this reason, the City Police does not operate normal police stations, but only dispatch centres that work in support of Nampol Police stations. This means that the only way to reach the City Police is by telephone. Members of the public cannot walk into their offices and make a complaint, because the City Police do not have police stations. When the City Police arrest law-breakers, they will only make the arrest and then hand the suspect over to the Namibian Police for further action. To make a complaint at a charge office, people will still have to go to Nampol. Because of the way they operate, the City Police have considered the introduction of a toll-free number – an urgent priority for some time now. The City, in partnership with Telecom Namibia, were finally able to announce on Tuesday of this week the new toll-free number, which is 061-302 302.