By MICHAEL MUGWANG’A
It has happened three times in Baragoi and three times in Bungoma in as many years. In Garissa it has happened several times. And in other parts of the country, a wave of crime looms large.
Criminals have attacked these areas with abandon leaving behind a trail of death, injuries and destruction.
What is worrying, experts and security agents say gangs would strike again, sooner rather than later, if a new approach is not adopted to decisively deal with criminal gangs.
Mr Richard Tuta, a former police officer and a scholar in criminal and security matters, says these and similar attacks will not only continue happening in areas that have been worst hit, but would also spread across the country in the absence of a firm response and a proactive approach to crime.
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The law enforcers, says Tuta, must ensure that crime has very little benefit but the greatest cost to perpetrators.
“Just like in any business, criminals of this kind always carry out a cost and benefit analysis before they embark on their mission. The only way out is to ensure costs outweigh benefits,” says Tuta.
According to experts, a criminal commits a crime when they have reason to believe that chances of being caught are low and when caught the punishment is likely to be less painful compared to the benefit from the loot.
A repeat criminal is likely to re-engage if a previous strike attracted little or no pain and yielded considerable gain.
And that, Tuta says, is what makes Baragoi and other areas in the country attractive target to murderers.
“Attackers in Baragoi have managed to hit innocent residents, steal their livestock and kill then get away. In most cases there are no arrests and no punishment whatsoever. What will stop them and others from striking again?” asks Tuta.
The former policeman says internal security agencies are poorly equipped and staffed which makes it impossible for them to provide security in areas prone to crime.
“For the fight against such attacks to stand a chance of being successful, police should, for one be better armed than the enemy. In Baragoi, our response has always been disadvantageous to the police. We send officers only armed with AK-47 rifles when the enemy has the same weapon plus an added advantage of a thorough understanding of the terrain. One wonders what the army is doing with armoured personnel carriers in the barracks when these could be given to the police to crash the criminals once and for all,” argues Tuta.
A police source says the country’s military hardware should be made available to internal security agencies whenever there is need.
“Of what use are helicopters and armoured vehicles in army barracks when Kenyans and police officers are dying under attacks by internal criminals. In cases like Baragoi, we should have been given those and arms to crush the enemy,” says a police officer.
Experts are now advocating for a two-pronged approach to the Baragoi and related criminal attacks.
The first approach is to intensify Intelligence gathering, analyses and dissemination.
“Surprise is what is killing us. The enemy (criminals) has all the time to plan and execute his attack while we are expected to counter this when it happens. When we respond, we have no idea where the enemy is hiding or what weapon he has. Before we know it we have been surrounded and hit,” says the officer who has been involved in previous operations but cannot be named as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
And Tuta concurs with the officer saying: “We need to employ both HUMINT and SIGNIT (human and signal intelligence) not only to counter but also diffuse the enemy. The problem with our Intelligence wing (NIS) is that it does not have the capacity to act,” he says.
The second approach, experts say, is to make sure that whenever such attacks happen, the response is so ruthless that few would dare attempt it again.
“There is a tendency in this country to treat criminal suspects like flower girls. No country has ever contained crime by cosying up to criminals. Kenya need to decide whether it is crime we want to stop or it is public relations and what others call human rights. Our response should be ruthless enough so that another criminal in another part of the country can know that a similar fate would befall them if they ever engage in crime,” says a security consultant in Nairobi.