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Opinions of Saturday, 8 February 2003

Columnist: Agyeman, Harry

Armed Robberies, a scourge forever ???

The manner in which armed robbers are operating in Ghana should be a worry for any concerned Ghanaian. We all know the current president’s love for the Rule of Law and allowing the law to take it’s due process, innocent before guilty and those legalities that criminals love to hide behind. I am not a proponent of dishing out death sentences to these armed robbers but certainly there is a lot the government can do before Ghana slides into a country run by gangsters. If it is the government’s problem of breaching the principles of the rule of law as stated by Dicey then even those who handed us this cornerstone of the principle of laws are updating their legal books to handle modern day crime. An example is the British government abolishment of the code of silence when a suspect is first arrested.

Dicey’s core concept states;

Firstly, the rule of law means law is supreme and is contrary to arbitrary power. Unless a person's act violates the laws established before the ordinary courts, he or she will be penalised. Dicey also pointed out that governments should not have wide discretionary powers, which should at least be limited to some extent.

Surely what Dicey is saying here is not about laws set in concrete but as long the government act within the law, everything is fine. So what is wrong with changing the laws in order to accommodate some of the suggestions I have outlined below.

If what I am reading in the newspapers and on websites are true, clear and present then the government should start thinking about internment. I think what I really want to say is suspects should be detained before trial. This might sound harsh but we are talking about social misfits who will definitely be lynched on the streets if someone screams “thief” !!!! They will be better off in detention.

Things change, times change and we if we don’t change how can we tackle different things. Ghana is changing like everywhere in the world. Technology is fast out-pacing regulations and if the government stands still or only depends on police resources and conventional crime busting techniques to stop the scourge of armed robbery Ghana will turn into a Wild West in the modern world.

Informants will have a key role to play in the new scheme of things. Even advanced countries with sophisticated law enforcement techniques rely on informants to fight crime. I wont be surprised that most of these armed robbers are not only known by their neighbours or suspected by the police but because they are relying on proofs, evidence etc these guys are free and out there raining havoc on innocent Ghanaians. I say enough is enough all suspects should be rounded up, taken away from the community and then the due process can start from here.

In the large scheme of things the government should increase the image of the police. I don’t mean just empowering them, but the police force especially those on the “beat” should attract academics. I don’t know how much things have changed in the last 10 years in terms of police recruitment but my God this was one industry we all try to avoid when we grow up. Well it’s about time this image changes and something done about making it a worthwhile career and something to be proud of.

This goes on to emphasise the modernisation of the police force, not just personnel but equipment and facilities. Like the recent distribution of cars for the force. This is a plus on the government’s side but when you next see one of these new cars, look into them, it’s always full up with the police themselves. Either they are enjoying cruising in their new cars or there are not enough vehicles to go around. New vehicles are good but we are a long way away from feeling comfortable.

Crime especially armed robbery is a very destabilising and depressive element in any country’s development. It blackmails citizens, stunts progress, drive people out, keep people out, tarnish a country’s image and if not curb quickly it will spiral out of control into lawlessness and mob rule and by the time we find out our dear country will be dis-organise. At least now the robbers are taking things by force and violently, if not checked the time is coming when we will just hand it to them willingly without even being asked.

When was the last time we built a prison in Ghana. I am sorry but this is equally a necessary infrastructure for the country’s development. Development and progress always create the “have” and “have-nots” and as long as this simple concept exists there will be crime and the weaker the law enforcement the magnitude the crime wave increases. If we are going to modernise the way we fight crime in the modern world then we should embark on building modern prisons. There is an old adage that goes “Crime doesn’t pay”. Well there we have it; we have to pay to curb it without contemplating of any cost-benefit analysis. This is a big problem and we must curb it at all cost.

To supplement the government’s war chest on crime why not strip all these robbers of their assets? I’m sure some of them have houses bigger than prisons. They have cars, money and other luxurious things that can used to generate money towards police modernisation and penal development.

I hope all Ghanaians share my concern about this problem and having sleepless nights about it like I do. We don’t want a situation where some people are a law onto themselves and setting up no-go areas in our towns and cities. Kids take great interest in these things and believe it or not the more these bad guys get away with these things the more their outlawed ways looks glorified and romantic. What more motivation will our children need than these to determine what to be when they grow up.

Armed Robbery is a big problem and as such should be given the same importance as poverty reduction or mass education or debt eradication. The government is embarking on a lot of activities that will elevate Ghanaian’s status to be the envy of the developed and developing world but what is the point of gaining the whole world and losing your soul.

Armed Robbery is now organised and like little petty thieving and pick pocketing of old it is dangerously becoming a career. If this not checked then like a famous quote from a British newspaper “may the last person who leaves Ghana turn off the lights”.


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