On Monday, April 29, the Anambra State Police Command announced the arrest of a total of 265 criminal suspects from across the state. Out of that number, 231 were members of several secret cults who have been menacing law abiding citizens in the state.
Also among the suspects who were paraded at the state police command, Awka, was the man believed to have orchestrated the killing of the Nimo Town Union President General, Chief Sir Frank Anthony Igboka, on April 16. The arrest of this lynchpin came under two weeks after he and his gang eliminated the deceased.
As at the day of the parade, three other members of the gang were still at large, but less than a week after, as at the time of this editorial, another member of the gang had been arrested.
The speed with which the police went after and arrested these suspects is highly commendable. It showed very clearly that the police can deliver when and if it wants to. It was also a development that must have gone a long way in strengthening the confidence of the public in the ability of the police to deliver.
While we however commend the police on their gallant efforts in rounding up criminal elements, we wish to urge them to step up their efforts by being ahead of these criminals. This can only be achieved by the police by being proactive, rather than largely reacting to the commission of crimes.
It is a well-known fact that there are places in the state that are notorious for crime. Indeed, the regularity of crime in these places calls for concern as it appears the police are loath to beam their search lights there.
A case in point is the popular Head Bridge/Upper Iweka Axis. The activities of criminals in this axis have become almost regular. As such, it is now certain that anyone who alights from a vehicle in that axis is sure to be robbed of their possessions and in some cases end up as a victim of the now notorious ''One Chance Bus'' robbery phenomenon.
The question now becomes why the police have not been able to effectively patrol this axis. What happens there has started giving the state a bad image and needs to be stopped immediately.
The police should also beam their search lights on other notorious areas in Onitsha and Awka where robberies and other criminal activities occur in the twilight hours.
We also recommend that the police should deploy plainclothes police operatives at some of these notorious areas, including banks, pubs and other relaxation centres as was done in the days of old.
Our investigation revealed that criminals now hang around at banks, monitoring those who come there to do business and trailing them to their destination. Recently a priest was trailed by criminals from one of the banks in Awka situated along the express to Bishop Obiefuna Retreat and Pastoral Centre where they broke into his car and collected the money he withdrew from the bank after he had parked and gone for a meeting. It is possible that many other people might have been similarly trailed by such criminal elements.
Thus if these criminals can mingle with law abiding citizens at such places and trail them to their destinations, the police, using plainclothes officers can also mingle among the people there. When the criminals become aware that they are being monitored at such places, the chances are that their operations will be botched or that they will be easily traced and arrested.
In developed countries, proactive policing is usually favoured above reactive policing. That is why criminals are speedily arrested. The same can be done here. Even though the police are not expected to be everywhere, at least their presence in notorious areas will help a lot in containing crime.
While we expect more from the police, we also enjoin the public to continue to cooperate with the police by providing useful tips whenever they can.
We once more commend the police in Anambra on their efforts and urge them not to relent as they strive to keep the state safe.