30 November 2012

Liberia: Tackling Armed Robbers' Menace

The public fear and anxiety that greeted the sordid activities of armed robbers in and around Monrovia now appear to have receded with residents in many communities no longer complaining of threats posed daring armed robbers.

When the fear engulfed many households at the onset of the end-of-year festivities, police swung into action and imposed a nighttime curfew on motorcyclists seen as providing innocuous conduit to suspected armed robbers bent on making life difficult for households in many communities.

Community residents say indeed the 6am-10pm curfew appears to be making a tremendous impact as the initial outcry that characterized the armed robbery menace seems to be diminishing. We think the police deserve kudos for trying to clip the wings of armed robbers; but we urge them not to rest on their oars.

Over the past few weeks, suspected armed robbers, in their numbers, stormed several communities, sometimes shooting sporadically or brandishing cutlasses or other dangerous weapons to scare their targets before carting away their belongings as loot. The armed assailants also design the audacious strategy to hold some areas for ransom by threatening the economic and social lives of the people of those areas.

Aside from attacks on individuals, armed robbers, searching for money to make ends meet, have made certain banking institutions their prime targets of attacks. For example, there have been incidents in which a gang of armed robbers attacked the branches of the Ecobank in Kakata, Margibi County, and Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County, respectively.

Cases of robbers operating atop motorcycles have also been reportedly on the rise in Monrovia. The overall picture was that of a country literally being placed under siege by robbers. Quite notably, with the exception of the case of Zwedru where armed bandits were struggling to break into Ecobank only to be booted out by security forces acting on a tipoff, very little has been done to stem the tide of bank robbers and other bandits randomly harassing innocent citizens around the country.

There is no doubt that an upsurge in the activities of armed robberies across the country will further stretch the fragile security system in a country already on the edge as the Ivorian security situation continues to threaten Liberia.

We must point out here that armed robbery incidents that result to the killing of many innocent souls should concern any government that cares for its citizens and is desirous of ensuring an enabling environment for national economic, political and social stability.

While we acknowledge that our security units lack adequate logistics, trained personnel and equipment in performing their duties, we alert appropriate law enforcement authorities to check a mounting drift in public perception that some of national security agents seem to have been compromised either "ideologically or financially" by those who do not mean well for the nation.

The imposition of a nighttime curfew on motorcyclists is a fine idea, but certainly not enough. There is also a need to look at other areas such as better training of police personnel and stricter methods in doing recruitment. With the perception that armed robbers were being enlisted in the police force, recruitment officers must find a way to plug out suspected criminals who try to infiltrate the police where they could become shielded while carrying out their criminal activities insulted from detection.

We believe that ridding the security services of all these compromised elements that are sabotaging our common existence will go a long way in tackling the menace of the armed bandits and instilling confidence in security agencies. The security agencies, especially the police, need regular reorientation and restructuring.

The police certainly need to curb the menace of armed robbers in the nation. Our security agents need to inspire confidence in their ability to take control of the situation and rein in the bandits. The era in which robbers were said to possess more sophisticated guns should be over by now. Policemen should be well equipped and supplied with bulletproof vests for protection against the increasingly ruthless armed robbers.

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