On June 23rd Police Commissioner Thebeyame Tsimako spoke to the Gaborone City Council about the growing crime epidemic. The Commissioner told the members of the council that the police were developing strategies to cope with the issue of escalating crime. The police will be using a “Flexi-shift System” which has been used in other countries including South Africa. It allows officers to work over-time as needed in areas where crime concentration is the highest.
Other strategies include the use of more plain-clothes officers, an increased police visibility through the use of special constables and volunteers, and “Cluster Policing”. Mr. Tsimako also appealed to the councilors to help in the anti-crime effort by assisting police to rally the community in crime prevention efforts (i.e. neighbourhood watch programs) These all sound like positive measures – (although it seems much hinges on the involvement –and possible endanger- ment of ordinary citizens). The question remains, how exactly will these measures be implemented?
One would assume that we are about to see a growing number of teams clad in lumo-green vests with “VOLUNTEER” printed on the back. But will we see them marauding through neighbourhoods in broad daylight searching for Zimbabweans without their papers in order, harassing those honest, hard-working maids, gardeners, and other laborers. One would hope that they will rather be deployed when they are needed – at night, when good honest people are in bed and the actual criminals are out terrorizing neighbourhoods.
Studies have shown that simple presence of these kind of consist- ent night patrols reliably reduces the levels of crimes such as robbery, burglary and assault. Such deployments would allow the ordinary citizen to sleep with some peace of mind knowing that patrols were out on the streets, protecting us.
It is a positive step that an increasing number of Gaborone neighbourhoods now have their own police sub-stations. (Although sadly most of them are not equipped with vehicles). How much good do they serve though if they are not patrolling? In truth the sub-stations do not deter criminals at all, it just means the police may arrive quicker to make a report AFTER you’ve already become a victim.
If the police are going tno enlist volunteers and use the Flexi-Shift schedule to have more officers on duty to help with the crime problem then they must use them properly. They must use the extra man power to make our nights safe again – not to hassle innocent hard-working men and women.