By Allieu S. Tunkara
Residents in Freetown are highly concerned about the security situation during the festive period thereby calling the security apparatus to step up operations.
This year’s Christmas period is low-key, boring and dull. Many have attributed its low key nature to the harsh economic realities.
Some homes cannot make ends meet let alone to joy and jolly as usual in the festive period.
Hundreds weep and wail under lock and key in their bedrooms and sitting rooms as the sledge hammer descended on thousands of government workers in just a year: the highest sackings in the history of Sierra Leone.
No benefit or ex-gratia paid to the axed workers. Life is miserable and disastrous for them.
Others have gone for months without work and the search continues. Structural unemployment has crept in.
Nonetheless, Freetown is host to hundreds of migrants who have come to witness and exploit the economic windfall as various imported goods are floating around.
The goods are sold on auction, a big opportunity those from the provinces are ready to tap.
As crowds gather, business places are congested. Criminals and fraudsters are among the crowds to play pranks.
Most men and women are clueless about the criminals’ modus operandi but women are the most vulnerable.
They are easy targets for thieves because of their unwariness. The thieves are not only found in congested areas but they are in communities and neighbor hoods to cart away properties and disturb the peace of others.
The unquenchable thirst to form part of the jubilant crowds as the actual Christmas day drives them to perpetrate such crimes although such is not the conventional way to survive.
The clock ticked 6am in the vicinity of Allen Town this morning. Struggles and scuffles disrupted the silent morning.
A burglar has been intercepted by youths of the community. He broke into a woman’s dwelling house at 5am.
He was about to make away with the stolen valuables running into millions of Leones, but ran out of luck. As usual he was beaten up before taken to the police for investigation.
Besides burglars raiding communities, fraudsters are the most dangerous of the lot.
They run organized crime syndicates difficult to investigate. One hardly identifies them by virtue of their appearances.
They put on the most flashy cars, jeeps and fashionable vehicles to cover their real identities.
Most times, they are under assumed character of successful business men to attract preys. Important personalities have fallen victim to their criminally syndicated raid.
Pick-pockets, the most notorious of the various categories of thieves are in the streets to do their tricks.
The presence of the various categories of thieves renders streets and communities unsafe.
Most times beatings and brutalities meted out to thieves thus making such images grim and gore.
The youths readily seem to prefer mob justice for thieves to following what they refer to as “delayed procedures” of police investigations.
One of the youths said: “most times, thieves are released by police without informing them who do the arrest. Because of such releases done by the police, we decide not to take thieves to the police but to beat them up and retrieve what they have stolen.”
However, police effort at following the due process of investigation by police might be misunderstood by a public that is yet to come to terms with the intricacies of criminal investigations.
One of the residents in Calaba Town, east of Freetown, narrated that for two days thieves raided her residence and made away with some of her properties.
“It was a terrible night for me as I lost property worth millions of Leones,’’ She recounted.
The thieves, she added, were not captured as they escaped before the youths came around.
As the criminal activities take place in communities, the police have been vilified for this.
It is well established that the maintenance of public safety and security and the detection and prevention of crime presuppose the existence of a police agency.
The police embark on various kinds of operations to have the criminals in the net under the obligations they incurred under the law.
But the festive periods are hallmarked for heightened security by the police and the current Christmas period is no exception.
Deputy Head of Police media, Samuel Saio Conteh, told Nightwatch that a national operational order has been prepared for due compliance by every member of the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) to ensure that Christmas ensued devoid of major incidents.
“The SLP will be on top of security throughout the festive period,” Conteh assured.
He also pointed out that regional and divisional command structures have been put in place countrywide and that day and night patrols in communities are currently in progress.
“The aim of such security arrangement is to ensure that everybody enjoy the Christmas holiday without any fear of crime,” he assured.
It is a celebrated notion in security context that police presence is a deterrent to crime.
But not all communities enjoy police beat patrols. Some communities have gone for months without being visited or patrolled by the police.
Again, if the patrols do exist, are they carried out in accordance with established principles of SLP beat patrol model?
The model includes briefing of personnel, tasking, making community contacts, intelligence gathering and debriefing.
The question is very much crucial to police operations as the security effectiveness and efficiency of the SLP is put to the greatest test during festive periods.
The public wait and see if the assurances made by the police media would come to pass.
By Allieu S. Tunkara