By Nqobile Tshili
Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga has instructed all his provincial commanders to deploy special units to robbery hotspots in an effort to tackle increasing armed robbery cases.
Comm-Gen Matanga has also directed police to intensity stop-and-search patrols and roadblocks to prevent crime and flush out illegally possessed guns.
Additionally, Government has acquired and branded motorcycles and 100 vehicles to increase police mobility and reduce reaction time countrywide.
The country has been recording an increase in robbery cases where guns are used.
In the past two months, Bulawayo has recorded a series of armed robberies where assailants have shot victims.
A woman died in one of the incidents.
The latest incident occurred on Monday where armed robbers shot and injured two Fawcett Security guards who had responded to a crime report.
MDC-A Alliance Nketa Constituency legislator Phelela Masuku on Wednesday, quizzed Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Kazembe Kazembe on measures being implemented by Government to stop the rising crimes.
Minister Kazembe said Comm-Gen Matanga was seized with the matter of hard crime in the country and has instructed his lieutenants at provincial levels to deploy tactical teams to deal with criminals in hotspots.
“There are numerous on-going measures aimed at curbing armed robberies, burglaries and muggings which include the following:
intensifying foot, cycle and motorised patrols in crime-prone areas. In addition, the Commissioner-General has directed all officers commanding provinces to deploy Support Unit, Criminal Investigations Department, Duty Uniform Branch and Police Intelligence in hot spots to curtail the robbery cases,” said Minister Kazembe.
“The police command is engaging the Judiciary as well as another measure, urging them to impose stiffer penalties on perpetrators of violent crimes such as armed robberies, muggings and murder as a deterrent measure.”
The deployment of special tactics troops saw CID detectives on foot patrol last week arresting two Bulawayo men who had teamed up with a man from Burnside suburb to rob his mother and sister who had just landed from the United Kingdom via the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Airport.
The cops saw suspicious activities as the two suspects held the mother and daughter hostage in a car, leading to an arrest.
Minister Kazembe said while police were implementing strategies to curb the rise in robbery cases, legislators should tighten laws and make it difficult for hard crime suspects to be granted bail.
“In fact, some of the armed robberies are being committed by such elements who flout bail conditions with impunity, for instance the notorious armed robber Taj Abdul who has been evading justice for more than 20 years. When he was arrested, he was on the brink of being granted bail,” he said.
Minister Kazembe said the community also has a role in arresting the increase in armed robbery cases.
He said the recent meeting between police and private security companies is also among the measures being adopted by cops to deal with hard crimes.
“We are also heightening awareness campaigns, educating members of the public not to keep large sums of money at home or business premises or even to move around with huge sums of money. You find for instance people moving around with R190 000. I know there is a case where this amount was stolen. You find people keeping as much as close to a million United States dollars in a company safe when financial institutions are available,” he said.
Minister Kazembe blamed the increase in firearms on smuggling, saying some of the criminal syndicates bring the guns through the country’s porous borders while others are failing to secure their guns.
“Some licensed firearms owners are also not securing their weapons and, in the process, end up losing them to criminals who then use them to commit robbery cases. Accordingly, the police are intensifying roadblocks, stop and searches as well as awareness campaigns to conscientise firearm licecse holders to adhere to the provisions of the Firearms Act which demands the safe storage of firearms at all times,” Minister Kazembe.
He said the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development was addressing resource constraints challenges affecting cops in delivering their duties.
Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube said Treasury has set three targets in terms of police capacitation and these are infrastructure and camp issues, logistics and transportation concerns and their conditions of service.
Prof Ncube said Government has acquired 100 vehicles for the police.
“We have a programme right now where we have acquired just over an additional of 100 vehicles which we are delivering to the police.
They are already fully branded and over time you will see a bit of change in the mobility of the police,” he said.
“We also added motorcycles as well to the buying programme because to respond to a breakage in some house somewhere, you just need two policemen on a motorcycle to respond to that and a motorcycle costs US$1 000 equivalent at the most. It is not an expensive vehicle.
We have realised this and we are making sure that they are capacitated. We are doing something about this.” The Chronicle