Cluster policing not a magic bullet

Over the years, the introduction and growth of cluster policing – where communities hold hands in an organised manner against crime - has helped to significantly reduce crime around the country.

The Botswana Police Service has encouraged the formation of clusters across the country and has indeed supported these with secondments, de-briefings and back up wherever necessary. Cluster policing, or neighbourhood watches, has allowed a bottom-up approach where the community points police to the crime hotspots, trends and issues, thus allowing law enforcement to provide bespoke interventions.

The near-ubiquity of cluster members – day and night – has also struck trepidation in the hearts of would-be criminals, reducing the number and frequency of both petty thefts and major crimes.

In fact, in his address to senior officers at their 43rd annual conference held on Tuesday, Police Commissioner attributed the 1.6 percent drop in 2014 general crime to cluster policing and community partnerships.

As successful as it has been however, cluster policing, is not a magic bullet that can be fired at crime to resolve all issues.

While they operate with the noblest of intentions, community members are increasingly no match for the sophisticated and persistent criminals assailing our neighbourhoods daily.

Where electric fences and boundary walls were once an effective deterrent, these members of the criminal fringe view them as mere irritants that are easily breached in pursuit of illegal gains and acts.

Incidents have been reported of criminals so brazen that they are not deterred by blaring alarms and barking dogs. Criminals are waging a war against Batswana in their homes, vehicles, places of business and in the streets.

The percentage reductions in general crime unveiled on Tuesday belie the phenomenal growth in absolute crime numbers over the years, the number of victims and the increasingly violent nature of crimes.

Police need to understand the anatomy and psychology of crime affecting communities as well as the link between crime and rising household wealth, migration of rich immigrants, persistence of social inequality and poverty, unemployment and even resentment.

Being the targets of crime, community members cannot also be in the frontline of the battle against criminals. The police service should not ask cluster policing to be its buffer against the swelling criminal hordes.

As much as it is appreciated that police are wrestling with narcotics, diamond and financial crimes, child smugglers and all forms of other vice, crimes against the community strike at the heart of the nation.  Wherever we work or transact, we all return to the homes within our communities and we should not sleep quivering in fear at the slightest sound at night. Our policy makers should better equip, resource and motivate our law enforcement to fully understand the trends in crime and the slow growth of a modern day terror.

Editor's Comment
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