DCOP CHRISTIAN Yohunu’s idea of embarking on a patrol of police checkpoints with a selected number of journalists was a wonderful one.
It all happened last week. We were excited about the trip and wondered how it was going to be. In the end it afforded us a rare opportunity to appreciate the challenges of law enforcement agents.
Our mission was to follow the Greater Accra Regional Police Commander to observe his personnel as they maintained law and order and kept criminals at bay so innocent citizens could have their deserved rest.
The most effective means of overcoming the enemy, and in this case, the criminals, is by undertaking patrols to thwart their missions.
Patrols afford police personnel the opportunity to nip crime in the bud before it unfurls into something beyond their control.
Policing in Ghana
Policing in Ghana took a new turn when the IGP, Mohammed Ahmed Alhassan, unfolded the visibility novelty which has seen the placement of policemen and women at vantage points, especially, in the nation’s capital.
They perform their duties day and night in selected hotspots and crime prone areas within our communities and also control traffic flow.
The IGP once said that “policing is a reactive response to duty and not only sitting in the office doing menial and paper work.”
Now all men and women in the service, including Senior Police Officers (SPOs) are compelled to leave their various offices and go to the field for patrol duties. That was what informed the DCOP Yohunu-led mission of which I was privileged to be part.
On Friday May 16, 2014, I joined the Accra Regional Police Commander, DCOP Christian Tetteh Yohuno, to visit some snap checkpoints within Accra as part of his unannounced visits to check his men on duty.
It took almost eight hours to visit about 24 visibility checkpoints within Ministries, Kpeshie, Madina, Nima and the Kaneshie divisions.
After the tour, I asked the regional commander how his men do their work.
I was asked to report at the regional police headquarters at exactly 8:00pm, but I chose to be there at 6:00pm to find out how such deployments were done. Indeed, until the mission took off, those being deployed did not know what the agenda was.
Those being deployed for the mission paraded at the square for further instructions from their superiors. The square is the parade grounds for all police and military formations and that is where instructions are also given.
They were clad in bulletproof jackets – recently acquired gear – alongside protective helmets and clutching AK47 assault firearms.
The Officer Commanding Police Operations at the Greater Accra Police Headquarters, DSP Freeman Kumashi, addressed the personnel and identified the roles and location of each group.
After the instructions they sped off to waiting vehicles for onward movement to their duty points. As we headed for the duty points I asked DCOP Christian Tetteh Yohuno to throw more light on the mission that we were embarking upon.
The Accra Region, he said, is divided into seven zones and 30 sectors. Each zone is manned by divisional commanders. The sectors,
he added, are under the control of district commanders.
The divisional and district commanders have at their disposal maps of crime prone areas. They are mandated also to prevent criminals veering into their areas of operations from other regions. Deployments start at around 6:00pm at which time the men fall in for instructions.
All their deployments start around 6:00pm when all men assemble for instructions.
While one patrol team remains stationary, the other moves around their areas of operations; a routine they carry out until 6:00am.
The time for standing down the patrol teams was extended, according to the regional commander, because it has been discovered that doing so has effectively made it impossible for criminals to move their booty to their hideouts.
Mr. Yohunu said by the new security arrangement criminals are unable to move about freely as they did before.
Suspected criminals, the regional commander said, are searched upon reaching the checkpoints. Their luggage is also searched and those found in possession of deadly weapons are detained for further interrogation.
The search process at such checkpoints, especially deep at night, has led to a lot of arrests. The suspects are taken to the nearest police stations for further interrogation.
Where necessary, he added, they are processed and arraigned.
The regional commander revealed that most crimes committed at that time of the night are armed robbery, car and bag snatching from innocent victims who move at night.
Accra has some 170 checkpoints which have reduced crime rate to the barest minimum, though petty stealing tops the list of crimes being recorded in Accra, he said.
“The most notorious and hardened armed robbers are all gone and those who are now afraid to operate engage in petty stealing, which is worrying,” he said.
Criminals take advantage of victims who leave their windows ajar – due to power outage – as they sleep, to steal personal items through windows and doors.
“This is worrying and the police are devising means of curbing the menace,” he said.
The regional commander urged individuals to take their personal security serious.
He said leaving valuable items in a vehicle, leaving doors and windows ajar and the display of valuable items by individuals must stop.
Security enhancement at homes, workplaces and on other properties must be the major priority of Ghanaians.
When Under Attack
He advised that “to avoid being shot, obey whatever you are told to do by the criminals when under attack. Steal a glance at them periodically and make sure you can identify them looking out for marks or defects on their bodies but it should be unnoticed to suspects.”
“You can look out for the skin colour, how the teeth are arranged and eye colour.
Allow them to do whatever they want to do but make sure your life is spared and protected at the time you are under attack.
When suspects finish and are leaving you can call for help.
“Identifying personal defects on suspects helps the police in tracing and apprehending criminals,” he added.
Calling For Help
The emergency numbers to call for assistance is 0302773906 or the crime fighters’ number 18555 for Vodafone and MTN users.
DCOP Yohuno explained that personnel are stationed in the police control room 24 hours a day for the whole week and calling for assistance will really help.
“Victims should not think that when they call, the men are going to be dispatched from the headquarters to the scene of crime. We have men in all districts and locations so the moment the calls come in, those on patrol in that locality are called to move to the area to assist. It takes less than three minutes for the patrol team to attend to persons under distress,” he said.
“If you cannot call, get a number of a neighbour and quickly prompt him or her to call the control room on your behalf for assistance. It would even be that the team will be near you and the moment the calls are channelled to them, they quickly move in to assist,” he added.
Ghanaians have been reminded that the reward system is still active for those who report criminals to the police. An individual can get a cool of GH¢2000 for reporting a criminal to the police and his identity will be kept secret.
This patriotic act, according to DCOP C T Yohuno, will save an individual from any future attack.
“Individuals must not just walk into the station and report criminals to anybody in police uniform. When you get to the station, ask for the divisional, district commander or the crime officer of that particular station.
You can as well ask for any senior police officer to speak with. Walk into his or her office and give out the information and quickly leave.
“Again do not tell anybody, either a police officer or a civilian what you went in there to tell the Senior Police Officer and with the little information given, the criminal can be apprehended.
“When the criminals are apprehended, do not go about bragging that it was through your efforts that the suspects were apprehended since you may not know their loyal friends,” he advised.
BY Linda Tenyah (firstname.lastname@example.org)