Tomorrow Saturday, February 28th Inspector General of Police Major General Kale Kaihura will be leading hundreds of runners through the hills of Ibanda in attempt to raise awareness about the benefits of community policing.
The inaugural run will be contested over 5-, 12- and 21-km, funds from the event will go towards the welfare of the 900 crime preventers in the area. The recruitment of crime preventers in local communities was an initiative by the police to augment their own capacity in preventing and detecting crime. The crime preventers are volunteers who are taught basic policing skills to help secure their respective communities.
In 2013 about 100,000 criminal cases were reported to the police a marginal decrease from the previous year, but seen in a different perspective, one criminal case avoided is one less person living in fear.
"Of course all crime is not reported and it’s probably a compliment to the police that people even report crimes to them, a sign probably of growing confidence in the force by the public...
Better manned, better equipped and better facilitated than a decade ago the police presence cannot be ignored.
However even if there were police men patrolling at every street corner they would not take away the role of popular vigilance, the determination by the very society they police to look out for crime and play an active role in preventing and aiding in the apprehension of offenders.
They say there is no secret between two people. For every crime committed someone knows something either before it is committed or after the fact. If the right reporting structures are put in place imagine how dramatically the crime levels can fall.
Beyond that the initiative is being driven by the private sector and spearheaded by the police. The people who stand to lose the most by an escalation in insecurity are the business community. They would have to incur higher costs to secure their business and also have to factor in the cost of uncertainty that comes with insecurity or pack up their business and take them elsewhere or wait out the cycle of insecurity.
The irony is that since the insecurity is often caused by restless, jobless youth, a slow down or shuttering of businesses denies the youth the very jobs that would keep them out of trouble. A vicious cycle.
"Its good to see businessmen putting aside their daily rivalries to try and solve a community problem that if resolved would benefit everyone...
However we have to always guard against them doing it to obtain some leverage over our government institutions. The police budget is channeled through the consolidated fund. However it does not take a genius to recognise that the police remain woefully underfunded.
The funds from these and future runs will go mainly to beefing up the community policing capacity – the crime preventers and constructing police booths for instance. This money should be monitored and accounted for so that it goes to the purpose it is meant, if only to maintain public confidence in the partnership.
And finally there is a way for the public to contribute to these kind of endeavors in a more structured way.
The police can borrow from the public using the bond markets. People are always weary of increasing public debt – the debt contracted by government and its institutions from the public, but if there is one thing we have learnt in the last 30 years is that without security nothing matters.
It is by the grace of God that crime rates are not higher in Uganda, given how badly the police is facilitated, but we shouldn’t wait for all hell to break loose before we make a move.
The Ibanda Marathon is a good initiative that should be supported and rolled out in other districts in Uganda.