Community Policing and Crime Control in Nigeria

CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION

1.1       Background to the Study 

Community policing is in hand with systematic relationship between the police and the entire people in the community. Police roles and functions are not simply law enforcement but also include tackling a huge range of community problems. The movement from traditional policing to community policing is a universal phenomenon and the Nigeria police cannot be an exception to this. Indeed, community policing as a philosophy and practice is a veritable vehicle for police reforms (Okiro, 2007).

The Nigeria police in 2004, adopted community policing as a practical approach to police reforms. The stage was indeed set for a clear departure from traditional policing, that was reactive and incident based, to a problem solving oriented policing that is proactive with the community as the important part of policing objectives (Abdulrahaman, 2007).

Community Policing and Crime Control in Nigeria

Community policing is a paradigm shift that seeks to focus on constructive engagement with people who are the end users of the police service and renegotiate the agreement between the people and the police therefore making the community co-producers of justice and a quality police force. The most recent attempt made by the Nigeria police force to improve its performance was the introduction of community policing programme in 2004. This was part of the Nigerian Police force’s effort to change policing to a new and professional policing capable of ensuring and maintaining proper security of lives and property in Nigeria. Community oriented policing is a proactive measure that promotes curbing criminal act.

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However, the subject of security management is sacrosanct to the survival of any nation or community, and this underscores the importance being given to the issue of security by various governments by putting in place actions and structures that can ensure effective security management. Traditionally, security management was the unilateral function of the state especially if we consider the intellectual view(s) of some political theorists like Hobbes (1962) who opine that the essence of a state is to guarantee the security of lives and property and ensure law and order through its political sovereignty and monopoly of violence. In recent times, many governments have realized that they can no longer monopolize the business of security in local domains as well as the world at large. This opinion has led to extending the security community to include private players (in security business), Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and the civilians to take the centre stage in security management.

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Community Policing and Crime Control in Nigeria

Since the 1990s, the attention of the world population has shifted to redefining security and looking for the best approach that could guarantee effective security management different from the traditional ones that had failed to address the increasing security threats. The search for the best approach led to the emergence of the community policing approach. Community policing defined as an attempt to link the police more closely to the community in ‘partnership’ arrangements, joint activities to co-produce services and desired outcomes, giving the community a greater say in what the police do, or simply engaging with each other to produce a greater sense of police-community compatibility (Mastrofski, 2006).

Adams (1994) notes that community policing is a “… shift from a military-inspired approach to fighting crime to one that relies on forming partnerships with constituents’’. Holland (1994) affirms that community policing has remained a problem-solving approach to security management in many countries of the world such as the United States of America and other countries of the world.

Bittner, 1970; Gaskill, (2002) observe that if people are afforded the opportunity to be involved in the policy and decision making process of the police, there may be no need of having large population of police personnel. Certainly, the strategic importance of community policing has made it become a popular vocabulary not only among scholars in criminology and security studies but also scholars in other related fields as well as policy makers, police, legal practitioners, counsellors, politicians and citizens (Friedmann, 1992).

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In Nigeria, community policing was adopted to address the challenges confronting the nations as a result of high crime rate. The incidence of crime in Nigeria has been on rapid increase and has reached what Odekunle (2005) described as a pathological stage, in the last two years, the situation of violent crimes in Nigeria has rapidly been on increase especially in northern Nigeria where the police and other law enforcement agencies appear to be incapable of arresting various security breaches that have undermined the safety of lives and property.

In Nigeria, despite the introduction of community policing in 2004, the security situation begs for more questions than answers. There is growing incidence of crime and criminality, as the country is plagued with violent crimes like terrorism, political violence, assassination, incessant bank robbery, to mention a few.

Furthermore, the police involvement in community affairs is another strong strategy that allows the police to display themselves as both private citizens and State agents of social control. Community policing under this programme or strategy presents the police as servants of the society who, should in a reasonable manner, enforce law and order and ensure public compliance with policies.

Extant studies also attest that the involvement of police in community affairs has actually yielded fruitful results. For instance, Quinney (1974) affirmed that when the community collaborates with police personnel in maintaining social order, it helps the legal system also to be increasingly used in criminal justice administration. The police are viable instrument for building an inclusive and organised community policing in Nigeria. Police involvement in community affairs facilitates rapid and timely control of persistence rebellion, whether in outright political processes or behaviour that otherwise, violates the rules of the society.

Community policing also helps the State policing actors to exercise its repressive force on the people in order to achieve compliance with the law (see also Kelly & Clark, 2003). This technique can be employed only in a physically and socially disorganised community. In more disorganised areas, some experts pointed out, police use aggressive tactics to reduce crime and ‘take back the streets’ before building relations with community leaders (Siegel, 2008 citing Nolan, Conti & McDevitt, 2004).

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Admittedly, the main role of the police is to enforce law and order, safeguard lives and property, and render other essential services in the society. Put in a different way, fighting crimes and criminals is so difficult that the police and other law enforcement agencies alone cannot perform this task and achieve maximum positive results. Since the most visible part of criminal activities take place at the neighbourhood level, policing agencies need public support and co-operation. Intensive partnership and collaborative efforts of both the formal and informal agents of social control remain preconditions for a possible near ‘crime-free’ society (a complete crime free society is utopia); in other words, the idea will lead to a great success in crime prevention and control in the community.

Researchers (Cordner,1999; Skogan ,2006; Ferreira ,1996; Segrave & Ratcliff, 2004) observe that the problematic nature of measuring the impact of community policing created scarcity of empirical studies in that area. Previous efforts on assessing impact have been largely anecdotal (Patterson, 2007). While other measurement has tended to focus more on traditional indicators such as crime statistics even though the objectives may be more specific than to reduce crime  (Segrave & Ratcliffe, 2004).

There is paucity of empirical researches on the impact of community policing on crime control in Nigeria and Lagos state in particular. This study therefore, is designed to assess the perception of police personnel on the impact of community policing on crime control in Uyo Local Government Area, Akwa Ibom, Nigeria.

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