Armed Robbers On The Rampage

 

While our compatriots on the upper rungs of the economic and social ladder can afford well secure houses surrounded by forbidding walls additionally protected by private or state security guards, the dregs of society continue to go through hell because of the undoing of ruthless armed robbers and hardened criminals.

So alarming has this particular issue become that the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) being mindful of their constitutional mandate to protect lives and properties, and maintain law and order, which include preventing crime, recently issued a strongly worded public notice offering a handsome reward of Le2 million for any useful information that could lead to the arrest of ‘5 0’s’ – leaders of clique gangs.

No large urban settlement across the country is safe from the daily assaults and intrusions of desperate armed robbers and criminals that have become so emboldened that they now dare to attack people in broad-day light.

The former Commander of the Eastern Region, Assistant Inspector General Alfred Karrow-Kamara can testify to the headaches his personnel had with armed robbers in Kenema city to the extent that the Regional Commander had to collaborate with the Local Policing Partnership Board (LPPB) to set up community vigilante groups to police their communities.

AIG Alfred Karrow-Kamara’s successor, AIG Memuna Konteh Jalloh reportedly had to rise up to her full stature as a law enforcement and crime prevention officer to bring a semblance of normalcy to the notoriously crime-infested east end Freetown, though. Communities where armed robbers and criminals held the people captive include Shell, the Parsonage Street axis, Texaco, Low Cost Housing, Grassfield, Central Wellington, Kuntorlor and Calaba Town. Most notorious for armed robbery these days is Waterloo where many people are allegedly attributing to the proliferation of ex-rebels and soldiers in that sprawling community. Interestingly, however, the areas in east end Freetown where armed robbers and criminals give a wide berth are Portee and Rokupa at Wellington.

The Police Chiefs of Congo Cross and Lumley Divisions in the west end of the capital have reiterated similar stories of armed robbers and criminals giving them sleepless nights and how to think of effective ways and means to bring crime under control in their jurisdictions.

Bo city, which used to be a relatively safe metropolis, has joined the list of hot spots where you can no longer feel safe to be out at night. The most vulnerable in Freetown are market women who go to Dove Cot Market very early in the morning to buy foodstuffs and sell in their localities, and women returning home at night either from work, doing business or church services.

For those armed robbers that are bold enough to attack people in their homes at night, it will cost them their money or dear lives. What beats the imagination of many who have been victims of night armed robbers is the preciseness of the information they have about the victims. For women who are unlucky, they get raped before the robbers leave.

As Commander-in-Chief, His Excellency President Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio, for the safety and security of his people, needs to turn serious attention to this frightening unwelcomed development in our society which seems to have reached epidemic level. Armed robbery which is the highest form of lawlessness can easily turn into something else. Insecurity is the last thing any businessman or investor wants in a country. Thus, leaving the activities of armed robbers and criminals hold a potent potential to slow progress and development in the country. For example, on Monday, in broad-day light, a woman was robbed in one of the seaside slum communities around central Freetown. When police went to the scene to investigate, they were attacked by the robbers and beaten. It took soldiers to bring the situation under control.

Why in spite of all efforts by the ‘Sierra Leone Police (SLP) to bring this alarming situation under control, it seems to have got out of control? Many people point accusing fingers at the Judiciary. For example, it is some time now since four notorious armed robbers were uncovered by the police and charged to court for the murder of former CDS Nelson Williams. That case is still dragging on in court. It would not be a surprise to see after some time, those same suspects out and parading the streets of Freetown as freemen.

Witnesses are reluctant to turn up to give evidence against suspected armed robbers and criminals because they fear that the law will let them off the hook and end up threatening them with death. It seems as if there is connivance between the judiciary and the criminals to put lives and properties at risk, many have opined. Fingers are also pointed at rogue elements within the security forces that are suspected of colluding within these armed robbers and criminals by providing them with materials, information and solace.

Cliques are associate partners in crime with armed robbers. They are the ones who in broad daylight snatch people’s phones, bags and wallets. To escape detection and arrest when the heat is on, the armed robbers and criminals have a strategy. When they come under siege in the Western Area, they either submerge for a while or migrate to provincial urban centers to continue with their dastardly attacks on unsuspecting people.

Given the amount of financial loss and suffering they inflict on people on a daily basis, the call for tougher actions against armed robbers and criminals has reached a crescendo. One of the suggestions for combating these anti-social elements is revision of the laws punishing crime. Another recommendation is protection for witnesses.

Citizens too have to take precautionary measures. Be careful who you talk to about your personal affairs. When you go to the bank, be careful not to reveal any detail about your transaction. The person standing next to you could be a criminal doing intelligence gathering. The Portee and Rokupa residents have over the years protected their communities from armed robbery and have therefore been very notable as no-go areas for armed robbers because of their ruthlessness in dealing with armed robbers when caught. So be each other’s keeper.