The issue of ensuring public safety for citizens is essential for every government. It is no wonder therefore that the Ministry of Interior in collaboration with the Konrad Adenaeur Foundation organised a conference from October 13 to 15 at Akosombo with the theme, 'Improving Public Safety in Ghana.
Senior security officers and other experts met to deliberate and strategise on how to enhance public safety in the country. Mr Agyeman – Manu, Deputy Minister of Interior, in his keynote address, mentioned that crimes like car snatching, rape, fraud and manslaughter were at unacceptable levels and added that the incidences of traffic accident fines, and proliferation of small arms among others were a big source of concern to the populace.
He was worried that the effects of all these could have a far reaching implication for the nation since the situation had a tendency to undermine foreign direct investment, inflow of foreign tourists and general socio-economic activities.
In presenting strategies to prevent such violent crimes, Dr. Raymond A. Atuguba, lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Ghana and Executive Director of Legal Resources Centre, pointed out that Ghana was doing relatively well with respect to the state of the nation’s security. The evidence, according to him, was the fact that 'we as Ghanaians still have a state that is together'.
Dr Atuguba stated that as a nation, there was a fundamental mistake in our basic assumptions about the purpose of security, explaining that security was not only crucial because it could hamper the socio- economic activities of the country or affect investment and tourism, but that the safety of Ghanaians in Ghana was not to be a dismissive footnote to a broader agenda to attract investment and tourists.
'This is because, with or without investments and tourists, Ghanaians living in their own country needed to feel safe and secure', he said, explaining that when people have no legitimate opportunities for a livelihood, they would turn to illegitimate activities. Fighting crime therefore, 'needs to be integrated into a broader strategy of creating opportunities for the teaming unemployed youth'.
He recommended that the security apparatus find a way to infiltrate the various criminal groups, participate in their discussions and learn their modus operandi thereby curtailing their plans even before they take off.
On bank fraud, Mr Daniel Owusu from the Bank of Ghana named some of the underlying reasons for committing fraud as lack of clear cut legislation , laxity in prosecution, weak internal controls in the banks, greed on the part of perpetrators (get rich quick attitude) and negligence in reconciling counterpart and other accounts regularly.
He mentioned embezzlement, misappropriation of funds, aiding and abetting, making false entries in books or statement amongst others and said effects of such fraudulent activities on financial institutions could be very devastating, lamenting that the vulnerability of such fraud had been heightened by technological advancements.
Mr Owusu concluded by calling for strengthening of the collaboration between the institutions that help to detect, investigate and prosecute financial frauds and also for procedures in investigation to be abreast with current sophistication of financial fraud.
Mr. Noble John Appiah, Ag. Executive Director of the National Road Safety Commission, made a presentation on reducing road accidents in the country. He mentioned that road traffic accident statistics from 1998-2005 prove that out of 81,588 road accidents reported, 13,240 deaths occurred and 42,717 persons were injured.
He extrapolated that by the year 2010, the vehicle population in Ghana would rise from 800,000 to 1,200 million. This could lead to 12,000 people being killed in accidents and more than 20,000 people injured if the current rate of accidents is not checked.
Key contributory factors to fatal road accidents, according to the presenter, include overloading, fatigue, over speeding, unsafe driving, faulty vehicles, driving under influence of alcohol and mentioning over speeding as a major accident contributory factor globally and an important determinant of accident severity.
Mr Appiah disclosed that in a recent speeded measurement survey carried out in the most trafficked roads in Ghana, 96 per cent of all vehicles exceeded the posted limits, the lowest speed recorded was 75km/h (50 per cent above the speed limit) and the highest was 120Km/h.
The topic on combating trafficking and usage of drugs in Ghana was taken by Mr Kofi Bentum Quantson, one of Ghana’s renowned retired Commissioners of Police and former National Security Co- coordinator. He described the drug problem as a borderless, globally syndicated criminality threat that affected all nations.
He mentioned poor financial and logistical support and corruption in the enforcement mechanism mainly because of ineffective command and control systems as two of the problems the security agencies faced in managing and controlling the drug menace, and recommended an effective national awareness creation campaign on the situation and a political will and commitment of government with the active support of the frontline agencies to combat the threat.
Dr. Ishmael D. Norman of the School of Public Health, University of Ghana, Legon, spoke on strategies to reduce the incidence of disasters, which he said cause the breakdown of other complex socio-technical systems. He said that the frequency of disasters in Ghana and the rest of the world are anticipated to worsen. He said preparedness mitigates disasters but this also implies that there is the need for proper laws that are enforceable.
Dr Norman said domestic and industrial fires in Ghana during 2005 caused over $700,000 worth of damage to individuals and companies within the Accra-Tema city areas. Ghana as a nation also spent $5.8 million on disasters/emergencies. He explained that the cost to security agencies was the training and recruitment of 1,186 volunteers and 3000 additional police officers in that same year.
He called for the mainstreaming of disaster risk reduction and management strategies in national policies to ensure the readiness of all stakeholders in fighting disasters, reducing coordination problems and enhancing service delivery.
Police Chief Inspector Bright Oduro, the Accra Regional crime officer‘s presentation was on 'enhancing public safety by combating robbery and other violent crimes focussing on the police perspective. He said armed robbery in Ghana today involved the use of weapons of any kind to threaten, intimidate or cause bodily harm to deprive the victims of their money and other valuables.
He explained that the security agencies needed to be well prepared for the task of combating armed robbery by mobilising resources and information. He called for police collaboration and coordination of its activities with the media, key security agencies and relevant institutions in the criminal justice system.
At the close of the mini conference, participants were of the view that the existing laws should be strengthened so that punitive sentences could be given out to persons convicted of computer and banking fraud, among other crimes. Effective co-ordination and collaboration of all security agencies in combating or preventing crime should be ensured and that an extra budgetary funding through the GET Fund, among other sources be made available by government for both academic and vocational training for inmates.
The writer is an Assistant Director with the Policy Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Directorate of the Ministry of Information and National Orientation.