At the beginning of this month the police in northern Uganda arrested a key suspect in the February murder of police officer Joseph Bigirwa.
The suspect Joseph Olanya it is alleged shot and killed Bigirwa, as the policeman tried to foil a robbery at Gaz petrol fuel station in Kajjansi.
It was suspected that Olanya had fled to South Sudan. He was arrested last month for allegedly staging a car robbery at Karuma along the Gulu-Kampala highway.
By a stroke of luck he was recognised by a detective as he sought bail in Gulu and detained.
Last week Kampala businessman Erias Sebunnya Bugembe was killed near his home in Muyenga while out on his morning exercise. The police has ruled out that the death was accidental and are searching for the alleged murders.
Sandwiched in between these two events were probably dozens, even hundreds of crimes committed most of which may go unresolved.
Is it the case of a more pervasive media presence or is that the incidents of crime are rising in our society?
According to the police “Annual crime and traffic/road safety report 2013” reported criminal cases were down to 99,959 in 2013 from 100,465 in the previous year. This could suggest two things, the obvious, that crime rates are down year-on-year or that crimes are happening and people are reporting to police less than the previous year.
According to data aggregation site Numbeo, Uganda is not in the top 20 unsafe countries to live in. In Africa we are a safer country to be in than South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria and Somalia. However we are ranked the 23rd unsafest nation out of 139 countries polled.
"Most safe societies rely on the goodwill of their citizens to keep the peace. And for the most part this works. But that is not enough...
The general lawlessness of the 1980s was brought under control, thanks to more disciplined security forces.
On the surface of it, it could be suggested that the beefing up of the police force to its current 40,000-man strength from a paltry 14,000 at the beginning of the decade could be a factor.
But the truth must also be that we are generally not a lawless society. You are not likely to get mugged in broad daylight on our high streets and even at night there is a general sense of safety and security.
Most safe societies rely on the goodwill of their citizens to keep the peace by being upstanding members of society. And for the most part this works. But that is not enough.
Assuming the crime levels are down to zero the security forces have to be prepared to tackle insecurity whenever and wherever it arises.
And that is the challenge for Uganda.
As it is we have about 100 police staff for every 100,000 Ugandans. This does not compare well with most policed state Russia, which has 564 police staff for every 100,000. More liberal democracies like Denmark at 197, Canada at 202 and the United Kingdoms, 262 suggest our police force is woefully undermanned.
But police numbers are not everything, in fact a case can be made for smaller police forces but well equipped with the latest equipment and crime fighting techniques.
Thankfully the ID project has been launched and this single initiative will change policing forever.
Up to this point our police were working in the dark. Even if they dusted up the crime scene and lifted some thumb prints the robustness of their database is questionable.
If increased numbers and police presence serve as a deterrent to criminals, having good information systems is what will keep criminals off the street once they are apprehended.
But finally improving the police is not an issue for the police alone.
The long term way to combat crime is to ensure that income and wealth inequalities within society are minimised. This is done by while creating an enabling environment for businesses to thrive, improving and increasing access to education, health and other social services for the majority of the people. On average better educated, healthy people are paid more.
I couldn’t find any statistics to back my claim but it’s possible that many, if not most crimes are committed out of necessity. If more people are earning a decent wage because of their enhanced capabilities it isn’t a stretch to expect they will have no incentive to steal or commit other crimes.
So back to the case of Kampala businessman Bugembe, more commonly known as Kasiwukira, the chance of the police apprehending the culprits is not very good (I would love to be wrong about this). If significant headway is made on the case it may be more out of luck than anything else, just like in the capture of Olanya aka Bucherman the alleged killer of police officer Bigirwa.
The point is that as the population grows and by extension the levels of criminality rise, we need to rely less on the goodwill of the people to keep our society safe. A more equitable economy and a better equipped police force will be the key.