By Lamin KSaine
I wish to commend the Chairman of the NCCE, Mr Faye for his brilliant reference to the preamble of the 1997 Constitution which contains our will and resolve for good governance and a just, secure and prosperous society.
However, while we pledge our firm allegiance and renew our promise to be ever true to the motherland, certain miscreants would not let us live in peace and tranquillity. Over the last twenty years, or more, almost every country in the world, including The Gambia, has experienced an enormous increase in crime rates. In The Gambia those crimes that were hitherto very rare or unknown are now committed daily. Neighbourhoods that once were safe at night; Tobacco Road mechanics workshops, Albion Place in BANJUL, Fajara area, Kanifing General Hospital taxi park, Westfield, Traffic Lights, Serekunda market and mosque environs, Palma Rima Beach, Coastal Road in Yundum, Brikama, Jambur rice fields; to name a few , have become dangerous even during the day. Random acts of violence once almost non-existent phenomena have become the order of the day. Certain kinds of violent crimes, such as stabbing, strangulations and general mugging and stalking, are actually common place now. Home invasions, for example in the course of robbery, arson rape and other attacks like those out of rancorous rivalries between taxi drivers and street hawkers, jealousy, are far becoming a concern in The country as they have been resulting in several deaths And injuries to persons and considerable damage to property, public and private; thus costing government and private individuals and groups millions of Dalasi every year.
The phenomenon may be considered by some observers to be a demographic issue. This theory can be premised on the fact that, perpetrators of some of the crimes are young men and women/girls in their teens, and those between 20’s and 40’s and perpetrators include foreigners. The coup d’etats and counter coups, generating terrorist attacks and other Socio-economic upheavals in the West African sub region and the rapid development of Tourism have remarkably compounded the influx of foreigners and rural inhabitants into the urban areas, and its attendant consequences.
Some schools have turned from places of learning into drug dens, gambling places and armed camps. Increasingly common, is the fact that girls are imitating their boyfriends and joining in the fray. With the proliferation of night clubs, beach bars brothels and clandestine beer and drug-pushing parlours, rape, indecent assault, pornography, child abuse and defilement cases etc have increased.
Other serious crimes, some of which are Transnational, in nature, involve adults, organised groups or persons in positions of trust.
The increase may also to a certain degree be imputed to impunity and a breakdown in moral values, other theorists may say. If so, why is there impunity and a breakdown in moral values? Well, in addition to poverty, discrimination, neglect, frustration, greed, drug and alcohol abuse, witnesses to crimes are, for reasons best known to themselves, disinclined to inform the police or go to courts to help them in prosecuting suspects. Kids who come from disadvantaged backgrounds are predisposed to antisocial behaviours when they attain adulthood. Even though government spends taxpayer’s money on welfare subsidies to curb the social pathology, crime is a growing and continuing challenge to national stability.
The impact of crime in its various forms is felt on a national scale and is costing life and property, while putting health and emotional tranquillity in jeopardy. It is even hampering freedom of movement and undermining trust in government’s capacity to ensure security of citizens despite all the effort being made by the various security services into containing it.
The foregoing are clear indicators that crime is an important national issue and therefore a priority for government. Thus, it goes without saying that it requires a national response to combat it.
Rather than cynically turning our eyes away, and being content with grumbling and blaming government, the whole nations should come together and formulate a fitting strategic framework. The Strategy should provide a nationally consistent response to ensure there will be a drastic reduction in some crimes, total eradication of others and that furthermore, there will be no safe havens for criminals.
As part of this approach, consideration should be given to the idea of corporate or joint security service cooperation and the involvement of civil society, especially, legal practitioners, local government authorities, village Development Committee member sand neighbourhood councils and vigilante groups participating in community policing. etc, in relation to all forms of criminal activities. It should especially usher in, improved interoperability, information sharing among all the members of the national intelligence community in the Gambia and other services, and the use of legislative measures.