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15.02.2005 Regional News

Living among thieves-Daily woes of Ashongman estates residents

By Kwesi Amoako-Resident.

Dear Editor;

I would like to bring to the attention of authorities concern with safety and protection, and the general public the recent increase in robberies and thefts in Ashongman estates and the surrounding areas. For the past two years armed robbers and petty thieves have consistently terrorized residents of Ashongman estates, a suburb of Accra near Dome. The incident is now on the increase.

My family and I have had no peace since we moved in to Ashongman estates two years ago. We have had robberies and attempted robberies in our home since day one; thieves have been in our house more than three times since we moved in. The same fate has visited other residents; A thieve broke into the home of our next door neighbor just last week and cleaned it out. Residents have to deal with this problem besides the numerous problems facing these residents; there are rampant large crater-like potholes which had made the main road to the estates almost inaccessible, poor drainage system had damaged the roads between the estate houses and made it also almost unrecognizable, and poor water condition (the taps are simply not flowing but residents get bills every month from the water and sewage company). Residents face daily harassment by thieves who rob houses both day and night. It is with pain that residents leave their houses daily to work each morning. What most residents think of when they leave each morning for work is whether they will come to meet the properties, they have worked hard to acquire, on return from work in the evening.

Ashongman estate is located about 10-15 minutes drive from Dome. About 85% of the residents are law abiding working class families who contribute fairly to the nation's development through taxes, etc. The remaining 15% of the residents are squatters who serve as caretakers of houses whose owners live either abroad or do not live currently at the estate. It is some of these squatters who are making live unbearable for residents.

The presence of the squatters at the estate: the squatters are tradesmen (carpenters, masons and electricians) who were at one time working on most of the houses in the area. They remain in these houses as caretakers when they finish working on the buildings, and the owners are not ready to live in and also do not find permanent tenants to occupy the houses. The squatters bring in their families and relatives when they move in; you can find about 5 to 10 grown up boys squabbling in one room. Mostly the women do some petty trading, but most of guys just sit around the estates doing nothing at all. These guys know the in and out of the estates and also the movement of almost all the residents. They know the time you leave and come in, and therefore know the time to visit your house. Most of the robberies take place in the afternoon when residents are at work. A very sick old lady who is suffering from stroke was robbed immediately the daughter who takes care of her left the house. There was also another incident where a thief used a coat hunger to remove a key from the back of a main door to gain entrance into a house. Again four houses were robbed at gun point last week. The nature of the operations indicated a joint operation between the local Ashongman guys and outsiders. There is a rumor that the local guys feed the outsiders-who are more armed-with information of which house to rob and the day and time the robbery must take place. Another rumor goes around that the outsiders comprise of a team of Ghanaians and about 10 Nigerians. The Nigerians are believed to be hiding in a house at the operakuo estates. As I write this I don't even know if I will be robbed tonight-how can one live under this constant fear and still continue to contribute successfully towards the nation's building.

The police are helping a lot in terms of their approach to handling robbery cases, and the speed of processing such cases. The problem, however, lies in the timely intervention and prevention of these robberies. I don't think it will be wise, safety-wise or cost effective economic-wise to wait for occurrence of disasters before initiating and implementing corrective measures. A big lesson can be learnt from the erstwhile Tsunami disaster. We all know that prevention is better that cure, we need the police to come to our aid in stopping these robberies. I believe that the mere sight of a police car patrolling in the area will go a long way to either curtail or reduce these robberies. We need the police to patrol the estates at least twice a day; afternoon and night where these incidents mostly take place, and to respond timely to incidents of robberies.

The Atomic police under whose jurisdiction Ashongman falls under complains of lack of vehicles. According one of the officers "We are under Medina and the whole of Medina has only one vehicle, how can we carry out patrols and also respond timely to robberies. We need more vehicles" Whiles I appreciate and understand these concerns, I think no excuse can be accepted when lives of human beings are at stake. Safety of a nation's citizens is of prime concern for government of every sovereign nation. Police can meanwhile use Motor vehicles to do the patrols.

We need the authorities to be more proactive and not reactive when security is concern; we are appealing to the MP of this area Honorable Prof. Mike Quaye to respond quickly and to address the issues raised here.

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