•Attacks call  for active neighbourhood security

By Prisca Sam-Duru

With the look of things, burglars have resumed their nefarious activities in some communities in Ikorodu, after residents experienced a bit of tranquility for some time. There was a period when people living in some communities around Ijede and Gberigbe axis feared to go to Church on Sundays because their absence at home presented the thieves an opportunity to burgle their homes.

It looks like that period is back but this time, the thieves operate any day when people have left their homes for work or business as well as at night. A lot of people believe the biting economic situation of the country coupled with high rate of unemployment is responsible for increase in the number of robberies being recorded weekly.

New mode of operation

Before now, the fear of dogs checkmated the activities of these unscrupulous fellows with penchant for always wanting to harvest where they never sowed. Today, it’s either they steal the dog, kill or render it inactive before breaking into the targeted building.

In one of these communities, there have been reported cases of missing dogs. It isn’t that the missing dogs wandered away from their owners but they were stolen right from their owners’ houses. Alhaji Lateef’s house was broken into last week.

The thieves scaled his fence and made their way straight to his boys’ quarters where they robbed his son of his laptop and handset. From there, they moved to the main building and stole his generator. All the while, the entire family members, Lateef and his German shepherd were fast asleep! Everyone wondered what happened to the dog known to be very aggressive.

Well, those who understand fetishism said the robbers hypnotised the dog. While lamenting his loss, the man thanked God that the dog was alive and not injured or stolen because some of his neighbours’ dogs were not lucky.

Few days before the attack on his house, Alhaji Lateef’s neighbour’s dog was seen with a broken head. It was said to have sustained the injury after it was left alone at home. The dog’s owner came back home to meet his house burgled and his dog bleeding from the head. The dog must have waged a fierce battle against the intruders.

Uncompleted buildings as safe haven

In the case of Alhaji Lateef, an eye witness narrated that the robbers were later traced to an uncompleted building in the same community; not too far from his building. The young men occupying the building numbered more than 11. They were Just there, living together without any clear means of livelihood. So far, the case is yet to get to the police as the CDA is waiting for the owner of the building to show up after he was summoned.

A Church in Igbopa community was desecrated by burglars during the week. The robbers were said to have made away with the Church’s musical instruments and chairs. They were not caught!

Sometimes the intruders scale through people’s walls at night, tear down the mosquito nets and wake the occupants of the house, with guns pointed at them. They further instruct their victims to surrender their mobile phones and money. The thieves also specialised in breaking into completed buildings which owners are yet to pack in. They steal items ranging from WCs, fans, pumping machines, water heater, etc.

The other day, a young trader had his food stuffs shop located around AP bus stop, burgled at night. He came to the shop the following morning to find an empty space. Meanwhile, he said he never missed paying security levy every month.

Also, Mrs Nancy’s generator (the small generator aka I pass my neighbour) was stolen in broad day light while she was resting in her bedroom some weeks ago. She alerted her neighbours and few of them who were around volunteered to search the environs. After a while, they found the generator wrapped in a sack and hidden in a nearby bush.

They mounted guard around the area, waiting for the thief to come for his loot. Lo and behold, it was a cart pusher/scavenger. When he was caught, he narrated how two young boys (Mrs Nancy’s neighbours’ children from different homes), sold the generator to him for 3,000 naira. He made a deposit of 1,000 and went to source for the balance. So, it was while on his way to carry the generator that he was apprehended.

The incessant burgling of people’s homes has led most CDAs to begin to search out uncompleted buildings and their occupants to ensure they only harbour homeless families.

Urgent need for vibrant Neighbourhood security

Some of the residents who now live in fear of the burglars, emphasised the need for vibrant security personnel around the communities. Before now, according to them, they recruited ‘maiguards’ from the North but with the spate of insecurity, it’s difficult for them to trust anyone.

This leaves the people with the option of the Lagos State neighbourhood watch officers. The only disappointing thing according to them, is that these officers are usually seen sitting down at few bus stops or seen driving past on roads.

They believe it would make more sense if their area of jurisdiction is expanded to cover streets inside the communities. That way, they could spot anyone with the intension of breaking into another person’s building.

“Rather than sit idly at bus stops, they should move into the communities and ensure that uncompleted buildings are not occupied by men of the underworld. Also, since they do not carry arms, they could alert the police on patrol around the affected community”, Iya Iremide said.

A Lagos State security officer speaks

A Neighbourhood Watch officer,  dismissed the claim that they only sit idly at bus stops. According to her, “You don’t understand the nature of our work. We operate hand in hand with the police, but we do mostly intelligence gathering about what happens in the community.

Most often, as you see me standing here, people come to me and my colleagues to pass  information about some bad people in the communities. Sometimes, they write, come to us or call us. They are afraid of going to the police because they fear their identity might be revealed”.

Asked their next line of action on receiving critical information, she explained that, “We investigate and where by the information is true, we arrest the person”.

As mentioned above, they do not carry arms so, one wonders how they can arrest a criminal. “We have been well trained on how to go about that. We have different methods that we use and at the end of the day, we hand the criminal over to the police.

But if it turns out very difficult to arrest the person, we call the DPO who will send his men to complete the job”.

The officer further explained that it is not true that they do not patrol round the community, disclosing that they do but most often appear in mufti so that they would not be easily recognised. “We have informants in the communities and even join CDAs during their meetings to get updates on security matters”, she added.

The question now is, if these officers perform such tasks, why are burglary cases increasing? Perhaps they need more men on ground.

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