The crime rate in Kenya has been going up steadily despite the introduction of initiatives like community policing. Eleven years after community policing was launched, there is little to show for the project that was touted as the panacea to rampant crime in the country.
According to police records, there was an increase of 3,144 cases of crime or four per cent last year compared to the previous year. The public still view police with suspicion when it comes to volunteering information even though dispelling this was the main aim of the community policing concept.
Since it was rolled out in 2005, community policing has been re-launched three times, with the most recent being the Nyumba Kumi initiative. The government allocates millions of shillings every financial year for the project and an entire directorate was set up at Police Headquarters to steer it and encourage the public to adopt it.
In the Office of the President, former provincial commissioner Joseph Kaguthi chairs the National Committee on Implementation of Citizen Participation in Security in Kenya, the public face of the project. It is the successor of the defunct Taskforce on Community Policing, which Mr Kaguthi also headed, before its mandate ended last year.
All these initiatives, however, have yielded little fruit. For instance, in 2015 police recorded 72,490 crime incidents compared to 69,736 in 2014.Mr Kaguthi told the Nation there is need to rethink the concept.
“We now need a real-time initiative which we can achieve through ICT platforms. The initial draft envisioned that we create clusters in neighborhoods, complete with leaders that hold monthly meetings. That has changed with technology,” he said.
Mr Kaguthi was referring to the use of mobile-based networks like WhatsApp, where groups have members with common interests that can easily be diverted to security concerns.
“We have a long way to go because, irrespective of the medium, we aspire to raise the security awareness of citizens to the level of national security. We also have to raise the security awareness of law enforcers so that they know what to do with information received from citizens,” he said.
Regarding ineffective policing, Mr Kaguthi noted: “It dawned on us that it is not reform that is critical for the police but transformation. Citizens must see positive results from what has been given to the police, including vehicles and equipment.”
In less than three years, the government has given the police 3,000 new vehicles, including armored personnel carriers and protective equipment. It has also provided a life insurance scheme for officers. Head of community policing in the police service, Mr Aggrey Adoli, said the Nyumba Kumi initiative is at an advanced stage and the results would be felt soon.
“Clusters have been formed at the grassroots which will soon be up and running. But we need political will so that we don’t have one side inciting the public against what is good for them. We also need to eliminate the attitude of uniting only in times of disaster,” he said.
The earlier model of community policing has been discarded, at least in parts of the country where technology is the mainstream of daily activities. According to Capt (Rtd) Simiyu Werunga, who served in the Taskforce on Community Policing, the concept is a noble idea.
“Before the three-year mandate of the taskforce ended, we had travelled all over the country and talked to chiefs, administrators, police and National Intelligence Service officers. We then invited representatives of 26 government departments for training in Naivasha,” he said.
The participants were trained on community policing and were in turn expected to train other officials at the county level. Government departments that took part included Immigration, Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya Forest Service, Maritime Authorities and Fisheries, among others.
“When we sent them to the counties, the response was very poor. We suspended the exercise because not enough officers were coming to be trained. In the police service, for instance, commanders were not releasing enough officers,” said Capt (rtd) Werunga.
The task force had targeted at least over 2,000 police officers but far less were trained, he said. He said 150 civilians have also been selected for training but this failed due to lack of funds.
According to Mr Kaguthi, community policing, in the earlier envisioned style, is operating at about 40 per cent in central Kenya and a few other counties. “In Lamu it is not working at all,” he added.