Police bring in Suggestion boxes & WhatsApp Number as moves to Combat insecurity in Kampala

Okoth Ochola with Sabiiti Muzeyi

The Deputy Inspector General of Police, Maj. Gen. Muzeeyi Sabiiti, has announced a robust and elaborate plan to combat the spiraling crime rate, characterized by cases of robbery and burglary.

According to Sabiiti, Police, among other measures, will set up rapid response teams in zones/villages in order to ensure that all cases of robberies reported are promptly acted on.

The President’s directive, which has prompted the new policy measures, followed a public outcry over the criminal gangs, which caught Museveni’s attention.

Hotlines for local communities

According to Sabiiti, each of the police stations countrywide will have a counter hotline, besides the known mobile telephone numbers of the commanders, which he said are sometimes not reliable.

“Each household must have this counter hotline number. It is the one residents should call in case of an emergency. These numbers will be operational 24 hours, seven days a week,” Sabiiti stressed.

Once this number is called, the police officer on duty is expected to alert the area rapid response team to act immediately.

Failure to respond to emergency calls by a police officer will result in disciplinary action.

Authorities at Jinja road Police station told the press that police officers have been circulating the emergency numbers (hotlines) whenever they go for community policing in different villages/zones.

“The same numbers are written and pinned on community noticeboards, including places of worship,” said the detective, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Sabiiti also revealed that they have intelligence information that indicates that when criminals rent houses in areas where they do not reside, they use them for surveilling their victims and the movement of security personnel before they engage in crime.

As a stop-gap measure, he said All village chairpersons asked to register their residents again, local council (village) chairpersons are being asked to register all their residents afresh to weed out criminals.

Police will also work with local authorities to mark routes and residences, which will make it easy for the response team to establish the exact location that may need help.

Sabiiti revealed that they will work out a plan to ensure that some roads are lit and bushes are cleared, arguing that darkness and bushes have been found to be hideouts for criminals. Police will also intensify foot and motorized patrols to increase visibility and ensure prompt responses to emergency calls.

The deputy police boss said they have in the past few months documented criminal gangs and dismantled several of them.

“The process is still ongoing.” As a precaution, Sabiiti advised the public to avoid moving with huge sums of money without requisite security contingencies.

Suggestion boxes, LDUs, bodabodas

According to Sabiiti, police will also introduce suggestion boxes, which will be put in open places in villages. The boxes will be opened by specific personnel.

“Anyone can volunteer information through the suggestion box. You can leave your contact if you wish, and they will be kept in confidence. But you can also give us information without necessarily leaving your contact,” he expounded.

In many village meetings in and around Kampala, residents have openly complained against Local Defence Unit (LDU) personnel, whom they accuse of harassment and extortion.

However, Sabiiti said he does not expect LDUs to engage in harassment and extortion, adding that they were trained and deployed and must, therefore, act professionally.

He added that they have put in place a Whatsapp number — 0707114114 — to which members of the public can send text messages.

Sabiiti acknowledged that bodabodas were still being used by criminals. He said the National Security Council was still working out ways of regulating and registering the bodabodas.

Over the past few years, gangsters have resorted to using fast-moving motorcycles when committing a crime. The latest incident where the gangsters used motorcycles was during the kidnap and murder of social worker Maria Nagirinya and her driver Ronald Kitayimbwa, as well as the murder of a cyclist at Kakeeka in Rubaga division, Kampala.

Geoffrey Lwanira, the chairperson of Kisimu zone in Nabweru division, Wakiso district, said he has heard about the new security measures, though not officially.

“The suggestions are good, if well-implemented and I personally welcome them,” he said.

However, Lwanira insisted that the issue of LDUs needs to be handled decisively, explaining that there are many wrong elements among them that perpetuate criminality and harass people.

“Because of the behavior of LDUs, some local leaders, such as the defence secretaries, have abandoned the security teams. You get information that when a defense secretary tells an LDU that they know a person, the LDUs do not want to listen. They say they do not report to local leaders. They then take the residents aside and after extorting money from them, they let them go,” he explained.

Lwanira also noted that there could be some wrong elements that are fighting LDUs because they foil their criminal plans.

Repeat offenders, dashboard cameras

Sabiiti said marijuana smoking is on the rise, which fuels criminality. “Many young men engage in criminality after smoking marijuana, which gives them a false sense of entitlement.

These eventually become repeat offenders,” he said. Sabiiti said divisional security committees, headed by Resident District Commissioners, should regularly meet to assess the security situation in their areas.

He urged their partners in the justice, law and order sector, especially the judiciary, to tighten the screws on habitual offenders by giving them deterrent sentences appropriate for their criminal acts.

According to Police, most of the murder and robbery cases were being committed by former convicts, who repeat the same offenses once they have been released from prison. Sabiiti said such offenders would be profiled.

He appealed to motorists to install cameras on their vehicle dashboards (both in the front and rear), which he said would help to record criminal elements who trail them. “The cameras may also record other incidents, thereby helping police in its investigations. Don’t you see them installed in cars in Europe?”

According to Sabiiti, installation of the Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras is almost complete in Kampala metropolitan area, especially in Kampala, Mukono and Wakiso districts.

However, he did not say whether the measures he discussed with Saturday Vision were part of the plan he will submit to the President.

The President’s directive

In his letter circulated on social media, the President revealed that he directed Sabiiti to decisively deal with the criminal gangs that are terrorizing people.

There have been many attacks by criminal gangs on homes and travelers along roads in the city suburbs. Over the weekend, thugs attacked the Kampala Central Police Station’s officer in charge of investigations, Joshua Tusingwire, as he was jogging in his home area in Mutungo, Nakawa Division, Kampala.

These attacks have caused fear and panic among members of the public.