By Brima Sannoh
It has been noted with disdain that the increase in the number of cliques and other deadly gangs in different parts of the country should be a serious concern and every effort must be mustered to squarely deal with them for the simple fact that their activities are posing grave destruction and threats to both lives and properties. The disenchanted young guys being members of these cliques are most times steeply enmeshed in bloody confrontations with other rival groups and in some instances violently rob innocent individuals with impunity. They spend most their time in make shift places known as ghettos where they are idly seen abusing drugs, blasting reggae music and engaging in baseless arguments. Displaying rudeness, rowdiness and lack of respect for elders in communities where they are found are easy ways of identifying them.
What seems to be incomprehensible is the simple fact that those who are entrusted with the mandate or responsibility to maintain peace and tranquility, the Sierra Leone Police Force, appears to be very unequal to the task of dealing headlong with these illegal groups especially during the thick of perpetuating violence or committing other crimes. Whether this situation is brought about by lack of professionalism on the part of members of the Force or is as a result of fear of these deadly groups could likely be just a combination of both. However, much is desired from the Sierra Leone Police!
Make no mistake about it that there is always a spike in crime rates, especially in big towns, whenever we are approaching holiday periods. Both Christmas and New Year holidays are just weeks ahead. Individual and criminal gang groups are now wide awake as well as very much active in committing all sorts of offences, irrespective of whatever means they do apply in a bid to just to make quick money to support certain despicable habits they have inculcated. They are all over the country particularly so in big towns to pick pocket, snatch phones, wallets etc leaving the victims in pain and sorrow. We need to therefore be always mindful of their presence in our midst and their activities.
Situations have arisen when cliques and other gang groups have bitterly locked up in serious confrontations with their perceived rivals transforming whole communities into combat, zones disturbing the quiet of peaceful citizens, restricting their freedom of movement, vandalizing vehicles and other public properties. The recent bloody confrontation which occurred at Parade Grounds on Circular road after a football match between two rival groups of supporters is a clear example or case in point of how such altercation could be very destructive. A mosque within the community was vandalized, some people were seriously wounded and the windscreens of vehicles passing through were smashed. Again we saw a situation in which the Police was too slow to respond not until serious damages have been caused.
We must again bear in mind that in the not too distant future we will be gearing up to both the Presidential and Parliamentary elections and we all know how at times they could take a bloody and nasty turn. There are certain ill-motivated individuals with political ambitions who will go at extreme lengths just to clinch political positions. These individuals most times use young people, especially clique members to pursue their political agenda. Disenchanted young people, who have lost focus in life, are most times induced by giving them drugs, alcohol just to cause mayhem and violently attacking so-called political opponents.
The Sierra Leone Police should try its level best to be on top of situation because the state of affairs is becoming very alarming and quite serious as time goes by. There is need for effective and thorough intelligence gathering to know where these groups reside, the ring leaders, what are their planned activities etc. Intelligence is very much important and is an integral component of policing and in order to achieve meaningful outcomes it must be used judiciously as well as professionally.
Also from time to time the Police should be mounting raids on the bases where these clique members do meet, hibernate and strategize to commit heinous crimes. This will obviously create a situation where their activities could be nipped in the bud and make it difficult for regrouping to be taking place which definitely will help greatly in rendering them less formidable.
It is sometimes very disheartening to witness situations where perpetrators of heinous crimes are left off the hook after they have been arrested and charged to court. Using whatever influence, either by their godfathers or relatives to have them released is mind boggling, seeing them again displaying the same life styles. This unfortunate situation is in no way helping us to salvage the problem and the sooner certain officials of the Judiciary desist from behaving in such uncanny ways then the better it will put us in the right stead or footing to squarely deal with the problem of violent clique activities.
It is also very much important to give all necessary support to the Sierra Leone Police in their bid to combat violent activities perpetuated by cliques and other dangerous groups. There should be synergy and amicable trust between members of the public and the Police because it only when the two work in good faith and honestly that we can succeed largely in tackling the social malaise that is impinging on our safety and tranquility which are so vital for national growth and peaceful co-existence. It is therefore of great essence to pass on vital information that could lead to arrests or prevent certain situations from degenerating into total chaos and anarchy.