Rid the City of Criminals

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CRIMINALS are becoming more daring and sophisticated despite the clampdown on these elements by the police. While police statistics indicate a drop in the level of crime in Windhoek, it is frightening to note that criminals are adopting new methods, with deadly consequences for some of their unwitting victims.

They are acting with impunity, greater confidence and precision. Sometimes, the criminals are simply brutal and seem to have no respect for the lives of other citizens.

People have lost their lives at the hands of these miscreants. An added element of sophistication by criminals is the use of women criminals for entrapment and as decoys for unsuspecting victims.

On Wednesday this week, a pregnant woman was kidnapped right inside a busy shop where she was made to call her mother to deliver ransom money.

And to make matters worse, the crime was committed in full view of the shopping public inside a shop. The woman was thereafter taken to another spot, still in the Central Business district (CBD) and was again ordered to call her mother for more ransom money.

The fact that criminals can kidnap a person and drive around with their captive in the city and not flee to some secluded spot, signals a dangerous degree of self-confidence and arrogance on the part of criminals.

And this poses a challenge to the police, who must not only break the cycle of criminality but send them packing and on the retreat.

Another example of growing confidence on the part of criminals is an incident this week where drug dealers were rounded up at the Zoo Park, where they have not only been selling drugs but also smoke cannabis openly in the park right in the city centre.

Yesterday, the police attended to yet another crime scene – an elderly couple was badly beaten up by four thieves before the gang ransacked their farmhouse stealing a number of guns, money and unspecified goods. This is an indication of things getting worse despite police statistics on crime, which reveal otherwise.

Incidents of pick-pocketing and bag or cellphone snatching are on a dramatic increase all over the city. The snatching of cellphones and bags happens at all times and across the city especially its outlying suburbs.

Last weekend, a student from the University of Namibia died after being brutally stabbed while chasing a teenage robber who had snatched a cellphone belonging to another Unam student.

The student who gave chase ran into a small crowd of youths who in the process grabbed him. According to an eyewitness, the youths stabbed the student in the neck and back before fleeing. The student died later from wounds sustained in the attack. This is just but one example of cellphone snatching with deadly consequences.

It is clear that criminals are adapting. It is also clear that criminals are on the loose and are prepared to take crime into the city centre. When criminals start to operate in the city centre with little fear of being apprehended, then hell is upon the residents of Windhoek.

This calls for a re-think on the way our law enforcement agencies conduct their operations. It cannot be business as usual because citizens cannot afford to live under constant fear of being attacked and robbed.

Windhoek City police head, Abraham Kanime, has to get this right – residents need to be reassured of their safety, not by word of mouth but physical police presence on the streets of the city. The City Police should be more proactive. If need be, they should fight fire with fire and send out a very strong message to criminals that crime indeed does not pay.

Kanime this week said police patrols at times tend to expose the police to criminals who simply move to other areas. “To a certain extent, general patrols to me are a waste of resources, the only good thing about patrols is that they reassure residents who feel safe on seeing that members of the service are on the ground. However, for would-be criminals, they are not a deterrent,” said Kanime.

Well, Kanime obviously knows what he is talking about. But to say patrols are a waste of resources is to miss the point. Whose resources anyway?

The residents of Windhoek pay a lot of money for their safety and other services. If police patrols scare away criminals, then the better. After all, prevention is better than cure. It is better for criminals to be scared away before they commit crime than have them commit crime before arresting them because by then, it may be too late. A life saved is worth one that is lost.

We need action and now.

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