22 May 2012

Namibia: Stock Theft Escalates in Otjozondjupa

Otjiwarongo — Members of the Namibian Police (Nampol) and farmers in the Otjozondjupa Region are working hand-in-hand to try and curb further cases of stock theft that have escalated in the region.

Otjozundjupa Regional Police Commander, Commissioner Joseph Anghuwo, described stock theft in the region as a headache for both farmers and the police.

"The prevalent crime regarded as serious is that of stock theft and illegal hunting. We don't count things like assaults, which are usually common as a result of alcohol. Those are of course serious offences, but the most prevalent are economic crimes," said to Commissioner Anghuwo.

According to Nampol statistics during the period January-March 2012, sixty-eight cases of stock theft were reported while the police dealt with 10 cases of illegal hunting. He said upon taking up office in 2007, it was decided to organize communal and commercial farmers in the region which led to the creation of a farmers association, which went on to become a crime prevention forum.

"We have farmers who made themselves available to work together with the police. We have this in the whole region. This has assisted us a lot and has further given criminals a tough time to commit such crimes and offences without being detected," he said.

He said the initiative has yielded a string of successes, which include criminals being apprehended with dried meat, fresh meat and in possession of livestock which are usually returned to the rightful owners if found alive.

He said, most of the illicit meat can be found at local kapana stalls, where it is for sale to the public for personal gain.

"These people are smart and they have a trick which they are using nowadays. They will go to the local butchery and buy for instance 5kg of meat and obtain a receipt stating that they bought the meat there. In that process, that same paper will be connected and circulated to other people who have already been assigned to go hunt illegally for the meat," he said.

He said one loophole is that the Ministry of Environment and Tourism issues permits for selling meat, which are valid for six months.

"That permit is issued only in instances where a person can say and prove that they bought the meat, for example, buying a kudu from a farmer. Why then issue someone with a permit for six months, because the particular permit will then be used for many other crimes instead of the single-purchase transaction it was issued for?" he said.

He added that Nampol in its quest to curb crimes of this nature met recently with the kapana meat sellers and farmers and proposed a system in which the police can have some measure of control over the matter.

"We proposed that there should be a fixed selling place where farmers bring their meat and everyone should go and buy there. We think by doing so we will be able to filter out any irregularities with regard to stock theft," he said.

"We do have stubborn criminals who do not have any respect for law and order. You now find criminals who have become regular customers of the police after having been arrested more than ten times."

He said the only way to make progress in curbing economic crimes is for the law to be applied strictly against habitual or repeat offenders.

"Very often we see criminals being released on bail after committing a crime. They then go out there and commit the same crime and are given bail yet again, which breaches the conditions of the first bail. They should not be given bail if they have already committed a crime or offence and that is not what is happening. This is my concern in this country," he said.

He added that this has allowed criminals to continue their criminal ventures with near impunity, which in turn makes it a tough job for the police to "keep up".

However, according to Commissioner Anghuwo, the region has made great strides in reducing criminal activities by over 10 percent over the last three years.

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