Friday, May 10, 2013

How poor planning of estates and bad roads let criminals thrive

Kenya’s runaway crime rates could be greatly reduced, without necessarily raising the number of police officers meant to keep law-breakers at bay.
If all dark places could be lit and neighbourhoods well-designed, there would be remarkably fewer muggings, rape and even carjacking, surveys suggest.
The reports imply that poor planning of settlements, like narrow pathways, lack of lighting, single exits and entry points, encourage crimes to an extent that even the police would find it difficult to fight crime.
Findings from two separate surveys, by the Saturday Nation and the government, confirm that most crime dens are those without proper lighting.
In Kisumu, Eldoret, Nakuru and Mombasa, crime is minimal in areas with electricity while dark corners are good attractions for sexual crimes, muggings and pick-pocketing.
Dark areas
In Nairobi, a police report released recently identified the crime hotspots and pointed out that dark areas attracted criminals.
According to the Nairobi Region Annual Crime Observatory report 2011/2012, Kenyans believe police can provide the much needed remedy to the upsurge of crime besides the fact that the officers themselves appear to be troubled by hardened criminals.
“Moreover, trends in crime are frequently evolving, giving law enforcement authorities the difficult task of keeping abreast with new and emerging crime challenges,” says the report of the National Steering Committee on Peace Building and Conflict Management made public last month.
It warns that there has been an upsurge of crime in the country, with rape and carjackings topping the list.
On Tuesday, Nairobi police chief Benson Kibui spelt out new measures to curb the high rates of crime, announcing that undercover police officers posing as commuters would start escorting matatus to protect passengers from carjackers.
Mr Kibui said the officers would be posted at night and concentrate on routes where cases of carjacking are prevalent.
“Hijacking happens mostly at night and in some cases, we’ve lost lives,” he said, confirming the “darkness” effect in rate of crime.
Nairobi governor Evans Kidero, who had called a meeting to discuss strategies to make Nairobi safer and attractive to investors, supported the move.
“Investors do not want to put their money where there is insecurity, which is a big menace in Nairobi,” Dr Kidero said.
According to the government report, most of the crime hotspots, especially in Nairobi, were in slum areas but also extend to other residential estates.
Well-designed neighbourhoods
Notably, however, the Saturday Nation report brought out the fact that most crimes were committed after dusk and stopped at around 3am, largely in areas where there is no lighting or where people have to walk long distances to bus stations.

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