Crime rate in Fiji is high: Labour’s Aman Singh

  • 13th July 2018
  • 2018
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A major cause of concern is the recent closure of a number of Community Police Posts throughout the country. This has left communities with high crime rates vulnerable to thieves and gangsters. In a number of  cases, appeals by residents to the Police as well as the PM’s office have been ignored.     

What hurts the common men and women most, is that while they are exposed to criminal elements, the Prime Minister and his Ministers are heavily secured 24/7 with personal body guards and army and police protection at their homes – all at public expense.

The first duty of a government is to maintain law and order, to ensure the safety and security of its citizens, their families and properties.

Law and order is also an essential prerequisite for economic growth, to ensure investor confidence and in a country like Fiji, for tourism to flourish because of our heavy reliance on the visitor market.

Needless to say, Fiji’s repeated coups have played havoc with our law and order situation. They have undermined respect for the rule of law and confidence in the the security forces. Not only that, coup makers as leaders have given themselves immunity from prosecution for their treasonous activities, sending a message down the line that it is okay to break the law. Is it little wonder that the crime rate in Fiji has proliferated since the 1987 coups?

Crime rate in Fiji is high by any standards. It is evident from the trouble residents take to secure their homes – security guards, high fences, strong grills and burglar bars have become an ugly feature of homes in our urban society. It is a sad testimony to the fact that people no longer feel safe in their homes. It is also indicative of the failure of our Police to ensure law and order.

Crime is not an isolated issue and should not be treated as one. It is usually a consequence of the social ills besetting a nation. For instance, home invasions and burglaries are closely linked to the increasing impoverishment of our people and a feeling of deprivation.

Sexually-related crimes

Likewise, sexually related crimes and domestic violence are signs of increasing social frustration, declining morality and a breakdown of family and community values. Sexual assaults are fast becoming a serious social problem in our society with young children and even infants becoming targets of sexual molestation.

Police statistics reveal a 30% increase in cases of rape and sexual assault in the past couple of years. Domestic violence and abuse of women and children are likewise major social issues.

Crime statistics are not easily available. Official Police figures for crime are only available for 2016 and show a 4% decline in overall crime and 1% decline in burglaries for the first six months of 2016 compared to the previous year. The Director of Public Prosecutions Office also provides some information on the crime situation with monthly figures for people charged with offences.

Figures for the last three months, from April to June 2018, show a sharp increase in charges for aggravated burglary and robbery. For instance, five people were charged with burglary in April. The figure increased to 16 for aggravated burglary in May and 20 for aggravated robbery. In June there were 19 cases of aggravated robbery, 14 cases of aggravated burglary and 12 cases of theft.

However, these figures cannot be used on their own as reliable indicators of crime situation in Fiji. They are indicative only. For instance, not all sexually-related offences are reported because of the stigma attached to such attacks. Likewise, people are now reluctant to report home break-ins, unless it is very serious, because of a loss of confidence in the Police to track down the criminals. They find that when the Police officers finally do turn up, they simply survey the crime scene, take fingerprints and a statement and leave. Nothing more is heard of the incident in most of the cases. There is no real investigation. This, of course, encourages more break-ins.

Injustices in the system

A major cause of concern is the recent closure of a number of Community Police Posts throughout the country. This has left communities with high crime rates vulnerable to thieves and gangsters. In a number of  cases, appeals by residents to the Police as well as the PM’s office have been ignored.

What hurts the common men and women most, is that while they are exposed to criminal elements, the Prime Minister and his Ministers are heavily secured 24/7 with personal body guards and army and police protection at their homes – all at public expense.

Drug Trafficking    

Drug related cases are also on the rise. Figures available for the Western Division show a steep rise to 155 in 2016 (Jan to June) from 55 for the same period in 2015. There is no doubt that drug trafficking, cyber crimes, prostitution etc are becoming serious activities in Fiji largely as a result of foreign influence.

With Asian countries cracking down on drug trafficking, Fiji is becoming an easy transit point because of our liberal immigration policies allowing visa-free entry of people from countries with a reputation for such crimes. A lack of effective monitoring of our national borders is another significant factor.  In the past couple of months, the media has reported several cases of authorities uncovering drug hauls worth millions of dollars.

What will Labour do?

  • Top priority will be to restore public confidence in the Police Force. This can only be achieved by increasing the professionalism and competency of the Force.
  • Labour will ensure greater Police presence in towns and cities and their suburbs. It will encourage the establishment of community Police Posts and neighbourhood schemes to combat crime. We will also increase Police foot patrol at nights to give people greater confidence and feeling of security.
  • We will ensure that the Police Force is adequately equipped to combat crime and improve its on-call response. We believe it has the resources but there will need to be greater efficiency in the use of these resources.
  • Police performance is also affected by dissatisfaction within their ranks when promotions are not granted based on merit, experience and seniority.
  • Labour will improve morale within the Force by ensuring that promotions and advancements are based on merit, giving first preference to career Police officers. We will put a stop to outsiders taking up senior positions in the Force.
  • Labour will ensure that each community is fairly represented in the composition of the Police Force.
  • Labour will focus on a rehabilitation of the Fiji prison system. It appears that the Yellow Ribbon Program was only used for the current Commissioner of Prisons who was a former inmate jailed for causing the death of a man for the crime of manslaughter.  The prison population has nearly doubled across the country with most prisons not able to cater for the large numbers of persons being sent to jail through the criminal justice system.
  • There is a high rate of re-offending among first time prisoners who are released. Labour will provide skills training for inmates which they will be able to use to seek employment once released from prison.
  • Labour intends to address the social issues that are contributing to the high crime rate in our country. Unless poverty, unemployment etc are effectively addressed, crime will continue to be a major problem in our society.