As long as I can remember, theft involving violence was not all that common in our society. Sure, people get robbed while walking on the streets, in their houses etc., but usually, such robberies did not entail in violence where a person was killed or even injured.
In a country where poverty has been and continues to be a problem, there are unfortunate but inevitable stages we must pass through; one of these is crime.
In the past few months, many people say that the rate of the crime, especially theft, has increased. The sense of security that one used to have when travelling at night is slowly starting to give way to fear. Although people never felt secure when walking at night in so called ‘bad’ neighborhoods, I am writing about people getting robbed and attacked in what were previously considered ‘nice’ neighborhoods as well.
What has started to become a trend is that robberies became more violent. Now, attackers carry knives and will not hesitate to use them. Personally, what I found most surprising was not that the crime rate has gone up. Rather, I am and always have been surprised that the country has managed to maintain such a sense of security and the feeling of being safe from these types of crimes this long.
When people are so poor they are forced to beg and sleep on the streets, they start thinking about and begin exploring other options in order to eat and steal anything they can easily get their hands on, like mobile phones and laptops, and sell them at cheap prices. Therefore, with such pervasive poverty all around us, why wouldn’t crime go up? Why wouldn’t we have individuals beating, stabbing and taking what they want? For some, this is becoming a way of life, a way to survive; they will not sit and wait for the ‘haves’ to give them some change (even spare change doesn’t buy them a piece of bread these days).
The times where we used to give five or ten cents to those who beg and feel we had done some good are long gone. In fact, it has now reached a stage where beggars literally consider it an insult if someone tries to give them small change. We all know that the real value of the birr has plummeted.
Now fear has crept in our hearts, because we hear stories of people who have been mugged, robbed at knifepoint and even stabbed. We have started to take precautions. Now, we actually worry when we walk in a perfectly lit-up area, even with other people walking around.
Many small taxi drivers who ply their fares at night say that they have to think twice before picking up a customer on the street as there have been more than a few incidents where individuals pose as potential clients and then force the drivers to give them whatever money they have on them.
Crime doesn’t have a distinct face. It could be a little boy selling tissue papers and gum; it could be an elderly person who would appear to be looking for directions or a ride, or it could be a young lady holding a child. We shouldn’t expect those who commit crimes to be only of the young variety. You can never tell.
So, what is next? We have a situation where our capital could potentially turn into a ‘Johannesburg’ (crime wise). How do we stop it before it reaches that point? Concerned bodies, which mean basically everybody, should be asking this question.
While we contemplate such questions, we should start to take care. We need to start to become even more aware of our surroundings and keep a tight grip on the things we carry around. Hopefully this problem will be curbed soon, as apparently due attention is being given to it. Maybe mobilizing those who have the potential to become part of the crime sector (yes we should see it as a sector) and give them responsibilities that provides them with a bit of hope and dignity could minimize the problem. We all have a responsibility to do this, and we should see to it that we do before all hell breaks loose.