The New Times (Kigali)

7 February 2013

Rwanda: Community Policing Key to Village Security

RWANDA IS the safest place to live in Africa, the 2012 Gallup Poll report says. And while security agencies; the Military, Police and others take the kudos, there is more beneath the surface.

The role of the populace in guaranteeing own security and their close partnership with security organs is a salient factor in building a safe and secure society.

The rationale for community policing lies in the fact that Police alone cannot maintain communities safe; they need the concerted effort of the community.

When Rwanda introduced the Community Policing approach in 2007, it had the aim of engaging the public in fighting and preventing crimes.

Months later, the first elections of Community Policing Committees (CPCs) members were held at Village and Cell level.

CPCs members encourage the collective efforts of the population to ensure security within communities and are in direct contact with local leaders and security organs.

As local residents with the mastery of their locale, they help devise solutions to local problems. This is paying off.

According to residents, members of the committees and Police sources, community policing approach has made remarkable improvement in security.

Englebert Habumuremyi, the leader of Taba village, Ngoma sector in Huye district, said the strategy has helped avert crimes in the area.

"There has been a drop in the levels of crimes since community policing was introduced," says the leader, who also serves as the head of the CPCs in his village. "Before, we were faced with high levels of theft in this area."

'Model'

Habumuremyi said when CPC idea was introduced, the residents of Taba village embraced it. At a meeting, the residents formed a security association of 10 persons. The team that at the time wore green uniform emblazoned with the inscription, 'Taba Village', walked the beat in the entire village.

"We agreed on a monthly contribution of Rwf1,000 per family to facilitate their work," Habumuremyi says. "We also established an emergency telephone line for people to contact whenever they suspected a security breach."

With such commitment to building a secure community, Taba village became a model for the surrounding villages. The same benefits are felt in other villages across the country.

Police sources say community policing approach has proved a success in crime reduction countrywide.

The Southern Region Police Spokesperson, Hubert Gashagaza, said community policing is a good strategy when it comes to guaranteeing people's security.

"The most important aspect of community policing is the partnership and collaboration between the Police and locals," Supt. Gashagaza said. "Where there is no Police officer, residents are there and they report any suspicious activity. This helps us to prevent crime from taking place or to apprehend culprits."

However, there is a feeling that more efforts are still needed to attain the desired level of security in villages. Some individuals are yet to own the initiative and still consider security as a responsibility of leaders and the police.

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