COMMENT:  Arrest the surge in armed robberies Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi

THE country has this year recorded a surge in cases of armed robbery and members of the public are encouraged to be vigilant especially during the festive season where there is a lot of movement of people from different places.

Our sister paper, The Sunday Mail yesterday reported that statistics from the Zimbabwe Statistics agency (Zimstat) for 2021 revealed that the country recorded 922 cases of armed robberies between January and the end of October.

This is a rise from 744 armed robberies recorded in 2020, a decline from 1 022 in the previous year.

The statistics are alarming and an urgent solution is needed to arrest the surge in armed robberies and restore sanity.

So daring are the robbers that they have gone to the extent of dehumanising their victims like the case where five armed robbers last week attacked a CAG Travellers Coaches bus along the Harare-Chirundu highway, undressed all passengers before escaping with the clothes and more than US$20 000.

In other cases, robbers have raided homes of known business people and made off with large amounts of cash.

It has since been established that, in most cases, employees of those business people would have directed the criminals to their employers.

There were also cases of security guards either working with armed robbers or stealing money in their trust and going on to claim that they had been attacked by armed robbers.

Other methods have also been employed to commit these robberies where members of the public lost large amounts of money.

The guns used in the robberies have been sourced from different places with some being smuggled from neighbouring South Africa, some stolen during robberies while some rogue serving members in the security forces have taken fire arms from work to commit crime.

It is heartening however, that the police have been on top of the situation by investigating and arresting most of the armed robbers.

In an interview with the Sunday Mail, police national police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi attributed the surge in armed robbery cases to a number of factors.

“There are people who are being licensed to own firearms and the guns are being stolen due to poor storage methods.

When someone who has a licensed gun dies, families should approach the authorities for guidance on what needs to be done,” he said.

“It is illegal for families to relay guns to deceased people’s relatives in the same manner that they would do with clothes. Some guns are being given to young relatives as inheritance pieces and they end up being used to commit crime.”

Asst Comm Nyathi said they managed to make a number of arrests while appealing to members of the public to deposit their money in financial institutions.

“We have arrested 849 armed robbery suspects so far this year. Some of them have been brought before the courts, and some have been convicted. This includes the likes of Mussa Taj Abdul, who was one of the country’s most wanted armed robbers for the past 20 years.

“We want co-operation from the public as we fight this scourge of robberies. People should not keep large sums of money at home or at work. We have observed that most cases are a result of information leaks from workers or acquaintances of victims,” said Asst Comm Nyathi

“Cash-in-transit robberies have also been a cause for worry. Companies should bank their money in their towns of operation to avoid driving long distances with money.

“No one is above the law, if you commit a crime you will be arrested regardless of who you are. Specific to serving members of the police force, if you are caught acting in cahoots with robbers, you will face internal disciplinary measures. You will also be tried in a criminal court and will obviously lose your job.”

The total eradication of armed robberies lies in close cooperation between members of the public and law enforcement agents for the identification and arrest of the criminals.

During the festive season, some of the wanted criminals visit their homes to celebrate Christmas with their relatives and members of the public need to be vigilant and alert the police when they see the criminals in their areas.

Failure to alert the police of the presence of these criminals will lead to the robbers turning on the members of the public and robbing them of their valuables.

The public is also reminded that harbouring criminals is against the law as the act defeats the ends of justice. Even if it is a relative, the public has a duty to report criminals to the police.

The public is reminded again to desist from keeping large sums of money in homes as they become a target to criminals. They are also encouraged to secure their homes so that they don’t fall victim to the criminals.

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