Sleeplessness in New Gbawe as robbers have field day

BY: Edmund Smith-Asante
Commander in charge of the Odorkor District, Superintendent Douglas Kumah
Commander in charge of the Odorkor District, Superintendent Douglas Kumah

Gbawe, a community in Accra, is believed to be the 23rd largest settlement in Ghana in terms of population, with about 74,403 people living there according to districts.ghana-net.com.

It is located in the west part of Accra.  Some of its land mark areas are McCarthy Hill, Weija and Mallam.

Gbawe used to be a small village community until several middle-class workers built their houses and relocated there, thereby creating a new suburb – New Gbawe. From a typical rural community of predominantly Gas, Gbawe has metamorphosed into a peri-urban mixed community. It also has a chunk of its population in the middle income bracket, with few state officials residing in the area.

General challenges

A typical morning and evening outlook of the place is one of heavy and slow-moving traffic on the only main Mallam to Gbawe road, which branches off in several places onto dusty bumpy roads that become muddy and impassable when it rains.


A resident sharing a concern at the durbar. A resident sharing a concern at the durbar. 

Key challenge

However, one key challenge facing residents is the problem of robbery. Indeed, it looks as if the robbers take advantage of the quietness of the area, especially during the day when most of the residents leave for work.

Most houses are walled and gated, which also affords intruders the latitude to break into several houses without questioning. In view of the bungalow-like settlements, residents under attack are not able to call for assistance from neighbours.

Mr Joseph Arthur, popularly called Bro. Joe, a resident, returned home one afternoon after a brief visit to a friend nearby to find two men attempting to lift a 60-inch flat screen television over the fence wall in order to cart it away.

His scream of shock scared the daylight robbers who bolted with the speed of lightening so he could not clearly see their faces or apprehend them.

Thanking God and narrating his experience later, he said he even refused the water offered by the friend he visited, as he suddenly felt the urge to return home, only to find on opening the gate, two men trying to lift the TV he suspected was the one in the living room of the main house, onto the wall in order to take it away.

Bro. Joe was lucky on that fateful day (about a fortnight ago) but other residents in the New Gbawe area have not been fortunate enough and have had robbers breaking into their homes whether during the day or in the night while asleep.

Another resident who gave his name as Mr Agyekum said he was not that lucky as the robbers made away with his three television sets and other personal effects.

Although living close to Bro. Joe, he did not hear when the former screamed ‘thief’ on seeing the two robbers who broke into his home, as he was taking a nap during the day on the porch due to the hot weather.

He said he woke up with a startle when Bro. Joe visited him, making him fear that he might have been voodooed or something else had been done to him to make him sleep so deep that he was unaware of when the robbers struck.

Mr Sylvanus Kuwornu, the Chairman of the joint residents associationMr Sylvanus Kuwornu, the Chairman of the joint residents association

Break-ins

A lot of residents have had their homes broken into and ransacked in their absence, with some having even their furniture packed away by unknown people, especially on Sundays when they left for church.

Some have also had robbers scale their walls, break into their homes and made away with televisions, phones, sound systems and other gadgets in the wee hours of the morning from midnight to 4a.m.

The situation has become so dire that residents are unable to sleep during the night or if they do, they wake up with a startle in the middle of the night at the slightest sound for fear of robbery attacks, or even dread leaving their homes at any time of the day.

Robbers on motorbikes have also attacked residents on their way to work early in the morning at knife or gunpoint and made away with laptops, phones and other personal effects even when it is 6a.m. or thereabout.

Police response

When the Daily Graphic contacted the police at the Gbawe/Lafa Station - opened in 2011 - on Monday, March19, they corroborated the robberies and break-ins.

However, the Commander in charge of the Odorkor District which has oversight responsibility of the Gbawe/Lafa Police Station, Superintendent Douglas Kumah, said following several arrests over the past weeks the high incidence of break-ins and robberies had reduced.

He confirmed that there had been about six break-ins in March just in a particular area at New Gbawe, but also rapped residents for leaving their homes with all members of the family at certain times. “People leave the house and don’t even leave a dog,” he stated in consternation.

According to Supt Kumah, investigations had shown that robberies and break-ins were also perpetuated when residents invited strangers who presented themselves as scrap dealers or buyers into their homes instead of the more ideal step of dealing with them outside the home gate.

Giving an assurance that the police was doing all in its power to ensure the security of citizens in the area, Superintendent Kumah said some of the steps taken were the mounting of barriers and security posts at vantage places in the community, the intensification of patrols and the seizure of dubious motorbikes.

Durbar

“The residents must help us to help them by being more security conscious,” he said, adding that the District Police had scheduled a durbar to discuss the issue of personal security with residents.

Speaking to the Daily Graphic at the durbar held in front of a new yet-to-be-inaugurated Gbawe Police Station, the Chairman of an amalgamation of 19 residents associations, Mr Sylvanus Kuwornu, said the new police station on a seven-plot piece of land was built with the assistance of individuals such as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Madam Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, the NDC candidate in the 2016 election, Ms Obuobia Darko, and several residents living in the area.

He said the decision to put up the police station was informed by the incessant armed robberies that occurred in the area and which resulted in the killing of even pregnant women. He confirmed that although the robberies reduced after they lodged complaints and had the police patrol the area there had been a recent upsurge. “Our appeal is to try and get them a pickup and also accommodation in the near future. We’ve already got them a motorcycle and a computer,” he said.

For now the new police station closes at 5p.m. which is not normal, he added, appealing that the station would be officially opened so it operates around the clock. Residents at the durbar also discussed other problems they faced such as bad roads, while others urged all to know and be close to their immediate neighbours to forestall break-ins which had become rampant in the area.

Gbawe/Lafa station

During a visit to the Gbawe/Lafa police station, many seized motorbikes were found parked in front of the building, confirming Supt Kumah’s assertion that the police were hounding suspicious characters in the community.

Community members were also seen trooping in at regular intervals with various complaints and ostensibly to help with investigations into one matter or the other.

The male and female cells were also occupied with scores of people, indicating that the police station had a lot on its hands with respect to crimes in the community it served.

Meanwhile on February 20, 2018, a man described by the police as a notorious robber was arrested with two of his accomplices after he allegedly attacked a mobile money vendor at Gbawe.

The suspect Solomon Lamptey, alias, Okelebe Attah Quaye, 27, was said to be responsible for the snatching of a number of motorbikes, attacks on mobile money vendors and other forms of robberies in and around Gbawe.

The police gave the names of his accomplices as Eric Aryee, alias Okukuseku or Pump Action, 22, and Enoch Lartey, alias Pome, 24.

According to the Public Relations officer of the Accra Regional Police Command, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Mrs Effia Tenge, during interrogation, Lamptey admitted that he was responsible for the snatching of six motorbikes from different owners at different locations in some parts of Accra this year.

The stolen motorbikes, according to the police, were either sold at lower prices after the registered number plates were removed or dismantled and sold as spare parts to unsuspecting motorbike spare parts dealers.

The police also said sometimes the members of the robbery gangs retained the stolen motorbikes and used them in their illegal operations which included motorbike snatching, handbag snatching or attacks on individuals in their homes or places of work.

Mr Patrick Baidoo — Assemblyman for New Gbawe

Mr Patrick Baidoo — Assemblyman for New Gbawe

Assembly’s reaction

In an interview with the Presiding Member (PM) and Assemblyman for the New Gbawe Electoral Area, Mr Patrick Baidoo, he said some residents had informed him they had been attacked by robbers but anytime they informed him, he told them the best approach was to report such robbery incidents to the police so they could  take the appropriate action.

He stated: “I have also made a few complaints to the police but when the residents make personal complaints to the police, it makes them see the gravity of the situation so that they put the necessary steps in place.”

According to Mr Baidoo, there was now a large influx of foreigners from the West African sub-region living in the area, and he was unsure if some of them had to do with the rampant thefts.

“Citizens have a role to play in this. When they report all robberies in the area to the police, they will see the seriousness of the situation,” he repeated, adding that some people were not willing to report to the police.