THE Lesotho Mounted Police Service has started working on strengthening its community policing strategy.
The blueprint seeks to improve the law-enforcement agency’s crime-prevention strategy and also ensure the successful investigation of crime.
In some areas within the districts of Maseru, Mafeteng, Leribe and Mokhotlong, the police are already working with communities, helping them organise crime-surveillance and neighbourhood watch teams and establish reporting systems that link them with nearby police stations.
In 2001, the police piloted the community policing strategy in select areas, targeting crimes such as stock- theft, house-breaking and theft, assault and murder.
According to Police Spokesperson, Inspector Mpiti Mopeli, the two-year pilot managed to help reduce the targeted crimes, thanks to collaboration between the police and local residents.
Insp Mopeli further said while the strategy was later introduced throughout the country, implementation was weak in some areas due to lack of resources to channel towards proper training of the communities.
However, Insp Mopeli said in certain areas where training was prioritised based on the high crime rate, the initiative had also weakened as some of those trained had relocated or were engaged in other activities that did not allow them time to focus on their community policing tasks.
“We are now working on resuscitating such operations, particularly in communities that are familiar with this strategy while we also introduce it in other communities that were not that active. This is our way of reaching out to the communities to demonstrate that we value their partnership to effectively fight crime while showing the good benefits that come with a citizenry that is law-abiding,” Insp Mopeli said.
In areas where community policing is vibrant, residents conduct night and day patrols to help prevent crime. The communities have also established their own intelligence systems that help detect criminal plans and activities, which they share with the police for swift arrests or to foil any criminal attempts.
“When the police work with communities, that approach helps to maximise the use of our limited resources. It means we can do more and cover a lot of ground with little resources to make communities much safer places. The police cannot be everywhere at all times, but we know where crime occurs, there are chances that someone saw or heard something. It is that factor that we would like to strengthen to continue improving our operations,” he said.
Insp Mopeli further said 2018 was going to be a year with a difference as far as crime-prevention was concerned. Not only would the police facilitate community participation, they are also going to intensify awareness campaigns aimed at educating people on how they could further utilise services provided by the police, he added.
“We want communities to understand they can walk into any police station and make their contributions in terms of how they would want us to improve our services. Through our gender section, our campaigns will also target women and girls in particular, for them to know their rights and understand that when something is wrong, and they cannot tell their parents, they can trust the police. We are taking this approach to protect girls from early marriages that can be forced upon them by some parents or guardians on the basis that they fell pregnant or for any other reason. Children belong to the state, and it is our responsibility to take action that strengthens their protection,” Insp Mopeli highlighted.
He further said this year, an average of five cases of concealment-of-birth were reported every month throughout the country, with most incidents involving young women. “We are concerned about this because backyard abortions are not only illegal, they are also life- threatening.”
The police, he also said, would like to do more than just arresting suspects by providing support that could protect young women from making decisions that are not just criminal but also put them in danger.
Insp Mopeli emphasised while working with local communities was a cornerstone of crime-prevention, stakeholders such as other government ministries, civil society and the private sector had a role to play in supporting police efforts.
“This festive season, we have partnered with the Ministry of Public Works and Transport to enhance our road-safety activities. There are a lot of collaborations we can also do with the private sector and civil society in our crime-prevention initiatives and for us to also strengthen their programmes. We provide services and the users are the public who include the business sector and other organisations we would like us to work together.”
Insp Mopeli also said during this festive season, the police would increase their visibility in strategic areas, targeting crime hot-spots, intensifying joint mobile patrols, road checks and conducting random stop-and-search operations. Police officers in plain clothes would also support community policing to ensure communities are well-behaved this festive season.
“I believe people can still enjoy themselves without over-indulging and we urge all people to religiously observe traffic regulations including desisting from speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol and using mobile phones while driving,” Insp Mopeli said.
Commenting on the need to observe traffic regulations, the Deputy Minister of Public Works and Transport, Mr Ts’ehlo Ramarou said traffic personnel would be out in full force and collaborating with the police to ensure safety on the roads.
He said driving un-roadworthy vehicles was one of the reasons which contributed to road accidents while action would be taken against people driving without valid licenses.
“The speed limit must be obeyed at all times because various speed limits were placed in different areas for various reasons, including preventing accidents. We have also noticed a tendency of not fastening safety belts by some drivers and passengers and we would like to urge all people to utilise the belts because they can save their lives,” Mr Ramarou said.