The recent upsurge in reported cases of criminal activities in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital and its environs has become a serious source of concern.
For a very long time, car snatching cases have been reported in the D/Line area of the city, where cars were snatched at random from their owners with the robbers also inflicting serious injuries on their victims resulting in at least one death.
As if programmed, the theft cases have moved to housebreaking and burglary, where thieves break into shops and people’s homes and cart away valuable household goods and merchandise. This particular development has been reported in virtually every part of the city from the old Port Harcourt Township to the suburbs around Port Harcourt.
The development is not only sending residents and business owners into panic spells, it is also unleashing hardship on a people whose material wellbeing has been drastically decimated by the prevailing economic hardship brought about by insensitive government actions like the mindless withdrawal of fuel subsidy.
Residents of the city had not quite recovered from the trauma of ‘one chance’ robbers, who pretended to be shuttle taxi or bus operators and randomly kidnapped passengers and took them away to places where they were robbed or killed.
The police and other security agencies, whose duty it is ensure security in the city must therefore, sit up. The political climate should not becloud attention to personal safety. It is time for the new police commissioner to recheck all aspects of his responsibility, for the people have gone through too much trauma in the past. Another era of uncertainty will be an extra burden too heavy to bear especially now. A lot of effort has also gone into creating a community policing system. This is the time to revisit and make it work.
While the prevailing economic hardship in the country cannot be divorced from this resurgence in common crimes in the city, it does not justify the criminal acts by whatever guise.
The instability in the headship of the Rivers State Police Command has also not been helpful. Within two years, there have been four commissioners of police.
The new commissioner of Police, Olatunji Disu, should take this up as a special assignment: rid the city of these criminals.
The criminals live among the people and they can be identified and flushed out if the people will it. This is where community policing comes in handy.
Residents should also give useful and timely information on criminals and their movements to security agencies for prompt action. Criminals caught should be made to face the law when indicted and not released to some politician or ‘big man’ on bail only for them to return to crime.
On a more enduring basis, government and all stakeholders should sit down and find a solution to this menace. The hardship in the land must also be addressed squarely so that otherwise good citizens would not find the excuse to resort to crime.
Politicians should stop recruiting and arming young people to serve them during election campaigns. This has been one clearly identified way of breeding criminals.
The sanity of Port Harcourt must be restored for the peace of those living and doing business in the city and to make it remain attractive to investors.
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