An increasing number of young people are in possession of firearms in the Northern Region, posing an additional risk to the already volatile situation in the area.
The disturbing phenomena was highlighted at the 2012 regional celebration of the West African Security Service Association (WASSA) in Tamale last Thursday when a number of speakers made reference to it and stressed the need to take measures to combat it.
Speaking at the function, the Northern Regional Co-ordinating Director, Alhaji Alhassan Issahaku, expressed worry about the rate at which the youths, especially students, were involved in armed robbery and other criminal activities.
According to the Deputy Northern Regional Police Commander, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Matthew Kojo Appiagyei, criminal offences in the Northern Region rose by 381 cases last year as compared to the previous year, from a figure of 1,768 cases in 2011 to 2,149, or a 22% rise in the crime rate.
He commended the men and women in uniform for dealing with these challenges professionally, but asked them to do more.
“The region is faced with a number of security challenges, such as chieftaincy and communal conflicts and armed robberies. However, it is my hope that if we do away with the complacency we should be able to curb the canker,” ACP Appiagyei said.
There were, however, some positive indicators from the transport sector as motor crash cases during 2012 recorded substantial decrease from 293 cases in 2011 to 192 in 2012 despite few incidences of large-scale accident cases which resulted in the loss of many lives.
Overall, however, assault and theft led the table of crime cases in the region. Other crimes recorded by the police included murder, rape and robbery.
A number of observers have stated that the illegal possession of arms is linked to the many pockets of conflicts and related disturbances in the region.
Some researchers have attributed some of these conflicts to political activities and regimes.
They argue that this is why the trend always exacerbate in election years, adding that “governments are perceived to have the power to decide who can or cannot be a chief, or have the capacity to make a sitting chief powerful/powerless.”
Politicians are also alleged to create economic and social opportunities that place factional members above opponents.
Other factors seen as influencing the incidence of crime and communal violence is the proliferation of arms and the country’s high youth unemployment rate.
Nationwide figures, however, showed a general decrease in crimes, although the figures were not uniform across the regions.