Stealing to survive: Neighborhood theft on the rise
In the face of economic downturn, with its dire effect on the standard of living of the masses, incidence of neighbourhood theft and petty robbery have been on the increase, a riddle yet to be unraveled by security experts across the country.
From The Guardian’s survey, considering their level of operation, majority of such crimes are done for survival sake, as they focus more on petty items like foodstuffs, cash, electronics, generators, phones, vehicle batteries, pots of soup, farm produce and other items that can easily be disposed of.
Their targets are homes, shops and churches, where they operate and escape with ease, without any threat or intimidation. From victims’ experiences, unlike the normal practice, the crimes are carried out in broad daylight, when majority of residents and households have left for their offices and place of work.
Recent reports from the police lay credence to this, as arrests made in recent time have indicated that suspects regularly paraded are petty thieves, looking for what to eat.
Just last week, several vehicle batteries were carted away in Calabar, Cross River State, when Skolombo boys embarked on a robbery spree. They went from one compound to another removing batteries. The Skolombo boys are petty thieves in Calabar between the age ranges of 10-18, abandoned on the streets, they eat and do everything on the street. They are gradually becoming armed.
In Abule-Egba area of Lagos State, there were reported cases of generator theft that have remained untraceable till date. Though some claimed that those who carried out the act are people close to the victims, but the way and manner similar incidents are recorded in the area is generating serious security concern.
In Arigbajo area of Ogun State, community leaders in the area have warned residents to ensure that at least one person is left in the house, considering rising incidence of theft. Based on investigations, majority of the robbery incidents are perpetrated on Sundays and market days when majority of the houses are often deserted, due to the fact that security is always relaxed till night.
There are cases, where shops, homes and churches have been burgled and several items carted away in the process. Keyboards, sleeve engines and other musical instruments were stolen in three different churches within one week.
In Ajao area of Lagos State, just few weeks ago, a generator was also reportedly stolen, likewise, incidence of attacks on shops and petty traders, is now very prevalent. Majority of their victims are traders operating in isolated or quiet areas where the thieves can operate without hindrance.
Also in Agege area of the state, a new group called Awawa has emerged. Investigations revealed that they are also young boys, who specialise in terrorising households and petty traders, stealing to survive in the area. Oshodi area of the state is also not left out, as residents record losses on daily basis.
One of the victims, Afeez Afolabi, a barber, whose shop was burgled told The Guardian that the thief broke the back wall where he was able to gain access into his shop. Though he escaped, but he carted away clippers and other barbing accessories.
The Lagos State Coordinator, Community Policing Partnership Association of Nigeria (CPPAN), Deacon Sunday Solanke, who spoke with The Guardian on the issue, described the development as a thorn in the flesh of security personnel.
He noted that based on the method adopted by the thieves, community leaders, with the cooperation of their people will need to secure their areas, with the involvement of neighborhood security operatives, who would monitor movement of people to curb activities of robbers.