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Police cannot measure crime rate

Wed, 17 Nov 2010 Source: GNA

A GNA Feature by Paul Achonga Kwode

Tamale, Nov. 16, GNA - It is common these days to hear institutions and individuals quoting statistics as a point of reference for their performance and one wonders if some of these figures are always accurate and credible.

This is so because it is only a few institutions in Ghana that have the capacity to come out with accurate statistics and some of them are the Ghana Statistical Service and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

These institutions have the capacity, in terms of personnel and instruments, to do their jobs efficiently. Lately, it is common to hear the Ghana Police Service churning out statistics about the crime rate in the country. The question that keeps ringing in many people's minds is: Do the police have all it takes to accurately measure crime let alone talk of its reduction?

Crime has been defined variously in the Oxford Advanced Dictionary as, "An action or omission which constitutes an offence and is punishable by law." Therefore one can simply regard crime as any act that is contrary to the law.

Social scientists have argued that crime is the worst form of all

social deviations and is subversive of the social order. Crime

prevention therefore constitutes a dominant problem of social

control. Professor Christ Abotchie of the Sociology Department of the

University of Ghana stated in his "Social Control in Traditional

Southern Eweland of Ghana" that notwithstanding the persisted

onslaught against crime, it has defied all manners of measures and is

escalating rather than diminishing. The Ghana Police Service recently came out with some statistics

on the crime rate in the country and said the rate was reducing. According to Superintendent of Police Kwesi Ofori, the Head of

Public Affairs of the Ghana Police Service, the police are on top of

their job in fighting crime and defused arguments that crime is

increasing based on their statistics. My major concern about their statistics is that they are raw data

of reported crime or robbery and not the rate of crime in the

country. I am yet to see any empirical research on the crime rate in Ghana

by the police. Raw data cannot be used to justify how well the

country was faring in terms of citizens being able to live peacefully. In a spate of less than two weeks, there have been several

reported robbery incidents. On November 5, five armed robbers were shot dead by the

police at Agiringano in Accra; on November 7, two buses were

attacked at the outskirts of Atta Akura, a village in the Kintampo

North Municipality; about four armed men, dressed in military and

police uniforms and on November 13, clashed with custom officials

at the Dawhenya customs check point after robbing passengers on

an Accra bound bus. These are but a few of the reported cases in the media. One can

only imagine the numerous others that do not find space in the

media. Talking of crime, one can easily see crime right at the doorsteps

of the police, especially white colour crime. The police are openly accused of involvement in bribery and the

demonstration of drivers at Oda in the Eastern Region against the

police for "harassment" speaks volumes. Will the single spine salary

halt this? What crime is heavier than economic crime which deprives the

citizenry of social amenities such as roads, hospitals and schools? Corruption, bribery and other negative criminal activities that go

on unnoticed in our various offices are depriving the people a better

standard of living thereby enriching only a few. What actions have

the police taken on several reported alleged corrupt practices?


But the police are working in very difficult and dangerous

environments as they seek to protect the people day and night. The Interior Minister, Mr. Martin Amidu, during a recent visit to

the Northern Region, held meetings with the police and

acknowledged the logistical constraints facing the police which had

slowed their performance. He said the Ghana Police Service personnel of 23,000 needed

about 5,000 vehicles but had only 950. This is not good news in a

country where crime is said to be increasing daily. The vehicles are not the only constraints. Weapons,

communication gadgets, bullet-proof jackets and among others

would assist the police more in fighting crime and it is clear that

some criminals even have more sophisticated weapons than the

police. The request by Assistant Commissioner of Police Agwunbutoge

Awuni, the former Northern Regional Police Commander, that the

government should consider buying a helicopter for the police is a

legitimate demand and must be considered. Government can only create more conditions for insecurity if it

fails to tackle the problems facing the service. Prof. Ken Attafuah, a criminologist, argued recently that the

performance of police officers is a combination of many factors. "The public should take into consideration their level of training,

the logistical support, the cooperation they enjoy from the public

and the validation or affirmation they receive from their superiors. It

is only when we do that that we can have legitimate basis to

challenge their performance." It is quite refreshing that some of the senior officers in the Police

Service like Deputy Commissioner of Police Rose Bio Atinga and

Deputy Commissioner of Police Patrick Timbila have urged the

personnel to work assiduously to justify their pay rise. The two officers have also led their personnel in several

operations with fruitful results and must be commended for their

efforts at fighting crime. It is only when the country gets dedicated

personnel like them that crime could be reduced. One other important factor to be considered is the mode of

recruitment into the police service. The police have scored low marks when it comes to background

checks on people to be recruited resulting in recruiting people with

criminal records, including armed robbers. It is therefore not

surprising that the men and women to apprehend criminals

themselves turn to be criminals to the extent that some even take

advantage of the AK47 rifles at their disposal to engage in robbery. There have been allegations of gifts changing hands before

recruitment into the service. There are also allegations that

recruitment is done on political party lines. Thus a political party in

power gets its "party boys" into the service. Recent suggestions by the Centre for Democratic Development

(CDD) that the Vice President should not chair the Police Council is

also laudable but must be critically looked at. The media and civil society play a very critical role when it

comes to crime prevention. It is a fact that the criminals live in our

midst and are brothers and sisters to some people and those people

know what their relatives or friends engage in. If people could volunteer such information to the police and the

law enforcement agencies, then the country would be half way

through in achieving a safe society.

Columnist: GNA