A man lay on his bed a few hours after returning home from a trip with a large sum of money. The amount, which runs into several millions of cedis, was meant for a project between himself and other stake-holders. Unfortunately however, he was not to enjoy his luck for long. He suddenly heard aggressive and intimidating shouts coming in from rooms of other tenants within the house. He quickly grasped what was really happening. There was an intrusion by men who were armed with weapons such as knives, cutlasses and guns. Their sole aim was to bully tenants into giving away their hard earned money. In order to escape harassment and possible injury from the intruders, the young man quickly ducked underneath his bed and remained there with the hope that the men would assume he was away if they got in. Unfortunately, his worst fears for that night more than came true, for the intruders did not only enter his room, but also slashed him on the head with a cutlass for attempting to hide. He also had to give away his millions and perhaps thank God for his life. This however, appeared not to have been enough for them. The men, numbering about eight, grabbed an old lady who was in another room, forced her fingers unto a table and hit them several times with a stick because they did not believe her when she said she had no money. Another petty trader, a lady in her mid twenties who was also a tenant in the house was not spared. She was beaten until she gave away twenty thousand cedis, which was money she had made from the day's petty trading. Indeed the above event is not just a story by some creative mind. It was experienced by tenants of a household in one of the regions of the country. As a matter of fact, similar ordeals have been experienced by several people in the country, especially within the past few years. Sometimes, however, one is not lucky enough to get away with just a minor injury or some financial loss. An armed robbery attack could also mean death or severe injury to a victim. An extension officer with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture was shot and killed in Bolgatanga (Times-July 26, 2002). All that the robbers wanted was a motorbike he was riding which they took away. About 0001 hours on the night of July 27, this year, at New Achimota in Accra, armed robbers numbering about four broke into the house of a Reverend Minister by smashing a door leading into his house with a block. When members of a neighbouring house who had gone near the scene to find out what was happening tried to shout for help, the robbers fired into them and killed a man and his twelve-year-old son. (Graphic July 29, 2002). Unlike most robbers of the past who often took advantage of darkness to carry out their operations and took to their heels at the shout of thief, robbers of today who are often armed, carry out their operations with surprising risk. Sometimes, members of a gang would move into the home of a victim to carry out their acts while others stood guard at vantage points within the vicinity to ensure that no neighbour came out to assist in arresting them. On one occasion, the driver of a police car narrowly missed getting hit, when robbers he was pursuing fired a shot from their car, resulting in the bullet grazing the side of his door. During another incident, which happened near Kumasi, a brave police officer was not so lucky. When a vehicle with armed robbers which he was pursuing together with some colleagues of his overturned, he got down to find out about the predicament of the robbers. The Policeman was shot and killed by gun-fire from underneath the over-turned car. Outlining some likely reasons for the situation in an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA), Mr. Prosper Nii Nortey Addo, Research Fellow at the African Security Dialogue and Research in Accra observed that prior to the change in government in 2001, armed robberies were not completely absent in the country. He said although there were pockets of armed robbery from time to time, cases were not happening on as high a frequency as they are happening now. Mr Addo noted that before the change, the security apparatus of the state had been long laid and organized which made it difficult for robbers to operate on as high a scale as they are doing now. According to Mr. Addo, the robbers must have known that there would definitely be a "lee way" which they could take advantage of in a situation where there was a complete change in government for the first time in several years. Other reasons he gave were the easy access to guns due to the large number of illegal manufacturers, infiltration of refugee groups by criminal elements who might travel with them from the countries they are fleeing, the loss of our traditional values and influences from foreign cultures among others. During a recent survey by the GNA, it was discovered that in spite of the armed robberies, several people did not consider themselves as being vulnerable. Most people said they had not taken any precautions at all while others did not even seem to see the subject as a salient issue. Perhaps what we must realize is that although the police have stepped up their efforts at combating crime since the up-surge, crimes that are carried out by skilled and professional perpetrators could sometimes outwit the efforts of the police even in some of the most advanced countries. Recently in the US, it took police about two weeks to track down two people who are suspected to be behind mystery sniper killings in which 10 people were killed. The killings went on without the police having a clue as to who was responsible. So far as the police cannot be everywhere at the same time, members of the public are often the main source of the police when it comes to crime detection. One fact worth noting is that armed robbers do not only attack wealthy homes, but occasionally also attack commercial cars, compound houses, and other places which puts every one at risk. The reality is that anyone could become a victim at any time. As much as the police are working 24 hours a day and have even managed to tackle the situation to a large extent, each member of the public needs to see the battle against armed robbers as one not for the police alone but all and sundry. If in addition to the efforts being made by the police, the whole public declares a war on armed robbers and collaborates with the police for lawful battle, the robbers might perhaps not stand the least of a chance for victory.
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