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Towards SAUTTing out our blimping crime problem
I have deliberately made the subject of this article simple and straight to the point because, quite frankly, I am disappointed in regime after regime failing to build on the workable crime-fighting initiatives of the administration before them.
Our crime problem mushroomed before our eyes and, instead of addressing the situation in a holistic manner and placing competent individuals to lead the charge, the options chosen proved to be no more than plasters covering sores.
I never thought the day would come when I would miss the airship which we all fondly called the blimp as we accused this crime-fighting tool of being no more than a spy ship that had nothing better to do than eavesdrop on conversations as it floated in the sky.
Although the Minister of National Security at the time when the airship was in full flight always came to its defence, explaining that it was an intelligence-gathering piece of equipment that was playing a fundamental role in fighting crime, nobody believed him because there was no significant reduction in criminal activity.
To make the blimping matter worse, the population was never given a satisfactory explanation about the capacity and capability of the airship to gather crucial information to detect criminal activity, so, unfortunately, it remained the subject of ridicule.
And while I do appreciate that it would have been a breach of security to place the specific details of the operations of the blimp in the public domain, much more should have been done to educate law-abiding citizens about the work and achievements of the blimp in the fight against crime.
SAUTT it Out
For the past five years, I have been tracking the crime statistics that deal with the reporting and detection of serious and violent crimes and, over that period, the figures show that the average detection rate moved from a dismal 24 per cent to an abysmal 14 per cent.
Obviously, there is insufficient resort to scientific means to detect criminals and the bandits are way ahead of those involved in law enforcement in terms of high-powered weaponry and use of technology.
Initially, I too was very wary when SAUTT was established because its operations were meant to be a well-kept secret and little was done to promote the achievements of this organisation.
In 2009, I accepted an invitation to visit SAUTT at its Cumuto location and I was thoroughly impressed with its operations. SAUTT focused on best practices in investigations and the use of technology to detect the identity of criminals. SAUTT provided training in all aspects of law enforcement and, without exaggeration, its labs were similar to those seen in shows such as NCIS and CSI.
SAUTT ensured that its officers were subjected to the highest scrutiny as part of the recruitment exercise and, even with its deficiencies, the organisation was taking law enforcement, especially in the area of crime detection, to the next level.
The previous regime was advised and later warned that legislation should be brought to the Parliament to ensure that SAUTT was operating within a legal framework and to promote the accomplishments of the organisation.
But the advice was not taken and, at the first opportunity, this regime dismantled SAUTT without fully appreciating its role in the crime fight. With no SAUTT in existence, we have lost an organisation that was assisting in crime detection and improving investigating techniques.
And it has all been to the benefit of the criminals.
Read the Reports
Recently I was forced to do the dreaded task of going through boxes containing documents dealing with the administration of justice and the fight against crime. Some of the articles and cases that I kept stored for years are as relevant today as they were years ago when I sat as an MP and on the Crime and Justice Commission.
I took the opportunity to read the reports of several local legal luminaries and distinguished individuals who chaired committees that were mandated to make recommendations to upgrade the administration of justice and fight crime.
I lamented that the time frame for the implementation of the recommendations has been too long and it is for that reason we are losing the war against crime. The current regime inherited the crime scourge, but much more has to be done in a short time if we are to bring criminals to justice.
I continue to advocate for the establishment of a national crime board comprising representatives from all the major stakeholders involved in crime detection, criminal prosecution and the administration of justice.
The board must not comprise any politicians but will of course be expected to update the executive on its findings, concerns, initiatives and recommendations.
We must go after the criminals now, with full force, within the parameters of the law. Otherwise we will be fighting a losing battle.
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