This past weekend, the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) hosted law enforcement officials at a conference to increase public awareness of the problem of crime, particularly transnational organised crime, and how to jointly combat it.
While we applaud any effort to place this critical issue on the public's radar screen, we are concerned that the conference, achieved little more than state the obvious.
Although officials were long on potential solutions, the event raised a crucial question: How will the government foot the bill for the hundreds of new personnel, training, and equipment needed to battle this global problem?
It's no secret that organised crime is increasing in Ghana—indeed as it is in other parts of Africa, Russia and much of the rest of the world. It's a strong reflection of the rapid advances in technology and communications, as well as the globalisation of economies since the 1970s.
Our own wealth of natural resources makes Ghana a strong magnet for unscrupulous entrepreneurs determined to make quick and illicit profits.
Further, our economic situation also contributes to this growing plague, which exacts untold costs on our economy. When some 31 percent of Ghanaians live below the poverty line, it's no stretch to see that legitimate economic activity pales when compared to the potential organised crime offers for wealth and upward mobility. If you're poor, crime does indeed pay.
Law enforcement experts offered a tempting menu of proposed solutions to problems such as drug and human trafficking, cyber crime, money laundering, armed robbery and vehicle theft.
These solutions included building and monitoring a central database on armed robbery; properly demarcating and identifying roads, streets and house numbers, especially in developing areas, to make it easier for law enforcement officers to apprehend criminals; partnering with local banks and financial institutions to stop money laundering; as well as adding and training law enforcement officers in an “intelligence-led” approach to crime-fighting.
But even if the government were committed to writing a large, blank cheque to pay for many of the proposals recommended, the challenges are still staggering.
First, authorities in different countries have varying levels of commitment to combating organised crime.
An essential element of countering illicit activities in Ghana is a higher level of both regional and international cooperation.
We are uncertain that the commitment and political will is there. The experts at the workshop highlighted the need for this.
Also, international legal instruments such as - The United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime—must be adopted. Currently, only a handful of nations are signatories to this agreement.
The workshop on combating transnational crime this weekend was a critical and much-needed first step. While we thank the law enforcement experts for sharing their challenges with the media, and for that matter the public, we now call on them to go to the next step of presenting the public with a real strategic plan to address this issue.
This includes the price tag for what it will take to implement some of the major proposals; a realistic, phased timeline; and when we can expect to see some real results.