By Maria Lopes
July 16, 2021
Gambians are clearly alarmed by the rising crime rate in the country in recent times, so much that some people are suggesting the establishment of neighbourhood watches.
A neighbourhood watch (sometimes referred to as vigilantes) is a voluntary crime prevention group. It is based on the idea of communities coming together to help reduce crime and increase community cohesion. A neighbourhood Watch can: Reduce/prevent local crime and disorder; reduce fear of crime; address issues relating to anti-social behavior; create safer neighbourhoods; build community spirit and cohesion; reassure members of the public; assist in the detection and apprehension of criminals through members providing information to the police; improve quality of life and the local environment.
A neighbouhood watch usually exists to complement the work of legal law enforcement agencies. When contacted by this medium, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Gambia Police Force (GPF) Lamin Njie, explained that the GPF through their community policing engagements encourage the establishment of community or neighbourhood watch committees within communities to enhance partnership and collaboration between the Police and communities through organised structures and information sharing.
He explained that established structures are being constantly engaged and educated on their responsibilities and limitations in accordance with GPF community policing guidelines.
He added that by so doing, community participation is enhanced in crime prevention and control thereby making communities safer and more secure. Some Gambians also gave their take on the idea of establishing neighbourhood watches all over the country.
Alhagie Minteh believes that setting up of neighborhood vigilantes will help reduce crime in the country if people in the neighbourhoods are ready to work together and report all suspected criminals to the police.
He pointed out that other countries have neighbourhood community offices tasked with lowering crime rate. “I think The Gambia should also initiate such in order to combat the rising crime in our communities and the country at large,” he advised.
Amadou Njie, who also shared his view on the issue, described the establishment of neighbourhood watches in The Gambia as a very good initiative that will help solve the crime problem in the country. He outlined the guidelines for starting a neighborhood watch that will be effective in crime prevention.
His words: “Consider linking with an existing organisation; people who often stay at home should be vigilant and report any unusual activity in the neighborhood; meet and stay connected to local enforcement and raise awareness aand, increase communication with your neighbours,”
He further stated that, setting up of a neighborhood watch should be preceded by a sensitisation programme, discussions among people in the community and the development of an action plan through convening meetings and events to create awareness.
On her part, Fana Ceesay opined that setting up of neighbourhood watches will be a very good step in efforts to minimise crime in The Gambia. But she stressed that it is not going to be easy to accomplish at once, due to the high level of criminal activity in the country these days.
She further stressed that every Gambian should be a security personnel in his or her own right, given the serious crime situation in the country. “All these will be achieved if we work hand-in-glove to solve the crime problems in The Gambia,” she added.