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It takes a City to fight crime


Personal security – like food and shelter -  is a basic need in any society, but one that is especially not felt in a place like Zamboanga City where street crimes and other homicides happen very frequently and  freely. The threat is made more acute by the fact that the killers are seldom if ever arrested. This emboldens further killings and other violations of the law, resulting in the kind of crime wave we have been experiencing for some time.

This shortage of peace and order is, of course, only one of the many common problems or difficulties afflicting local residents and other Filipinos elsewhere. Lack of jobs and economic opportunities result in human trafficking and dysfunctional families, deficient public health services result in chronic ailments and disability, and so forth.

The inability of authorities to enforce the law fairly and consistently force some people to seek protection or redress for grievances in insurgency, warlordism, vigilantism, terrorism, or simply flight. Because crime discourages serious business investment, as in the case of the city, it also results in the unavailability of good jobs, which in turn forces many of the city’s best and brightest to flee to the proverbial greener pastures and consequently weakens the city’s human resource base.

The departure of good and young Zamboanguenos does not, too, bode well for the future of the Chavacano culture, for then not enough of the city’s native sons stay behind to sustain or enrich their old folks’ customs and traditions. Already, the city is awash with tough jobseekers and fortune hunters from other tribes and climes.

The stubborn potential of tourism as one of the city’s best economic drivers will continue to be frustrated not only by the city’s bad crime reputation but in the longer term by this erosion of its uniquely quaint culture, if at all it stills exists.

It was but natural then for some quarters to raise an alarm when they noted that Mayor Lobregat failed to lay down an anti-crime program in his State of the City Report last week. Has he given up on the fight against crime?, people are probably wondering.

Admittedly, maintaining good peace and order in a complex, chaotic and highly multi-cultural city like Zamboanga is not an easy job, especially when citizens are apathetic or timid and look to authorities to deliver all the answers or solutions.  Still, political as well as police leadership and will are indispensable.

The highly complex character of the grassroots communities make it also indispensable for civil society groups and concerned community leaders to work closely with authorities.  It takes a city to fight crime.  If war is too important to be left to the generals, then crime is too important to be left to the police, as well.

Every so often for a long time now, the police release statistics that always say that the latest rate of crime incidence is lower than the previous year or period, thus making it probable that ours should by now be a completely crime-free utopian community.   We know the reality is otherwise, but we should also know better that crime is not defeated by propaganda, wherever it cometh from. On the contrary, self-serving propaganda and public posturing insofar as it takes the form of denial is crime’s best friend.  

By Peace Advocates Zamboanga

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