BRIGADIER-General Francis A. Agyemfra, a security consultant, has expressed concern at the alarming rise in crime as well as the rate at which teenagers are engaging in violent crime in the country, notably armed robbery and rape.
This is against a backdrop of a too slow justice system and an ill-equipped Police Service. Describing the situation as 'the rising tide of savagery in the country', he asked; 'how did we get to this point?'
The situation he said requires immediate attention, adding that, 'I think it is about time we did something about this menace before the situation gets out of hand.'
Brigadier-General Agyemfra was speaking at a workshop on crime combating at Dodowa over the weekend on the theme, 'Role of the media in combating organised crime'. His paper was on 'Armed robbery in Ghana — search for solutions'.
The two-day workshop was organised by the Ghana Journalists Association in collaboration with the Ghana Police Service and sponsorship by the British High Commission.
He said apart from cash and other valuable and saleable items that they target, the criminals also rape women and girls and inflict wanton violence on victims as well.
He cited an incident at Ho in the Volta Region where two robbers reportedly invaded a house, robbed the household of ¢6.6 million and shot a woman again in the thigh. He said crime is becoming more and more wanton and ruthless despite the strenuous efforts being made by the security agencies to curb the menace.
'The frequency and impunity with which these violent crimes are perpetrated sometimes in broad day light and in the full view of people, has become a source of concern to all, as the criminals seem to have put the general public in a state of siege and created fear and anxiety in the society', he stressed.
Brigadier-Gen. Agyemfra, former Chief Staff Officer, Army Headquarters, said it was an incontrovertible fact that armed robbery and highway robberies as well as mobile phone and handbag snatching are on ascendancy across the country.
'The fear and outrage generated by this violent crime wave are further compounded by the regrettable sense of helplessness, since the police appear to be overwhelmed by the volume and frequency of these nefarious activities'.
'These criminals activities are usually well-organised, carefully planned and executed, spread over a wide area and take various forms which include attacks on homes, shops, warehouses, raids on banks and petrol stations and carjacking or snatching'.
He said because of these heinous crimes many commercial drivers and traders in the rural areas, who are the backbone of the economy, are now afraid to travel in the night.
Besides, residents of some communities seldom dare to take a walk in their neighbourhood for fear of being attacked and robbed of their mobile phones, cash and other valuables.
Brigadier-General Agyemfra called for stiffer punishment against perpetrators of such crimes.
'Punishment must be swift, certain and severe, if it is to serve as a deterrent. Yet this is not the case in this country,' he said.
'Too often, suspects including armed robbers and other notorious criminals wait for months and even years for court appearance and trial. And even though the police continue to make arrests, only a few cases result in prison sentences.'
He described the workshop as timely as the two institutions will share experience in crime combating.
He appealed to the government and Parliament to give the security agencies the needed equipment to enable them fight crime.
He called for specialised criminal courts to be established in each region to ensure speedy trial of armed robbers and other serious offenders.
He also called for the sustenance of the Police and Military patrols and the formation of community and neighbourhood watch communities.
Mrs. Felicia Otchere Darko, of the Attorney General's Department in charge of the Volta region, in her presentation, expressed worry about the unwillingness of some witnesses to give evidence in court.
She said often people who are supposed to assist prosecutors, lawyers and judges to execute their jobs, refuse that support.
Delivering a paper on 'Combating organised crime in Ghana-challenges of the Criminal code', she said, 'sometimes if you want your case to be heard then you have to chase the witness or witnesses to come to court and testify.'
She also complained about the inadequate number of prosecutors to handle cases.
The Programmes Officer of the International Labour Organisation, Kwame Mensah, said he was alarmed at the rate young people are trafficked within and across boarders to work under dangerous conditions.
Speaking on 'child trafficking and illegal migration in Ghana-search for solutions', he said an urgent attention is needed to curb the trend.
Mr. Mensah said mostly the children are transported from the northern regions to the south to engage in menial work with some being sent out for fishing.
He mentioned Ningo, Prampram, Sogakope, Senya Breku, Denu, Gomoa Gemini, Kpando and Yeji as some of the recruitment towns for the children.
He said nearly, 20 per cent of children of school going according to 2003 statistics are engaged in child labour, which he described as infringement on the rights of the children who form the human resource base of every country.