Auto crime prevention: Tool for reducing electoral violence

Election violence and auto crime require coordinated community and law enforcement responses. 

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The use of motor vehicles and bikes and political party involvement complicates the interaction, using tactics like clandestine support or overt engagement. Effective preventive measures, combining legislation and law enforcement are essential.

Auto crime refers to the theft of motor vehicles or the fraudulent loss of money or property through illicit transactions involving the use of motor vehicles. It includes motor vehicle theft, carjacking and vehicular assault. Motor vehicle theft involves unauthorised theft of vehicles, while carjacking involves forceful takeovers.

Vehicular assault, including vehicular homicide or manslaughter, involves the negligent use of a vehicle to cause harm. 

Economic conditions: High unemployment rates, poverty and other dire economic conditions can lead to prevalent auto crime.

Experienced criminals and recidivists are likely to take advantage of poor economic conditions to indulge in criminal acts during elections to gain favour within the political establishment.

Criminals engaged in vehicle and motorbike theft are especially likely to make the most of the slightest opportunity to facilitate electoral violence (Herzog, 2002) to please their paymasters.

Legislative environment: Enforcement of stringent laws or lax laws on auto crime, ownership of vehicles used in electoral violence and inadequate punishment for perpetrators of auto crime-induced electoral violence can influence crime prevalence during elections and also reduce voter turnout.

Auto crimes, such as carjacking and theft, can sabotage electoral procedures and scare voters. Conduct: High rates of vehicle crime can fuel further lawlessness and mistrust of the police, which can be exploited by political figures as justification for violent acts.

Auto crime affects election violence by supplying anonymity and enabling quick executions through the use of stolen automobiles. Stakeholders may prevent auto crime and its potential to escalate into electoral violence by conducting themselves in a manner that builds public confidence in their ability to maintain law and order without bias.

Historical background

Areas notoriously known for electoral violence are likely to be influenced by how law enforcement agencies, and the security apparatus, reacted to previous occurrences. The lack of punitive measures to serve as deterrence to previous offenders is likely to buoy and inspire the commission of more crimes in volatile areas.

In the lead-up to the upcoming election and beyond, it is imperative for a close collaboration between the major stakeholders, such as, the Ghana Police Service (GPS), the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority, the National Insurance Commission, Car Dealers and Rental Associations, to streamline and regulate all activities that lead to the purchase, importation, clearance, registration and usage of motor vehicles and motorcycles.  

Develop

It is important to develop a central motor vehicle database that is accessible to law enforcement agencies, especially the GPS, and that will contain relevant information about all vehicles and motorbikes that are plying our roads.

This will ensure that the police can rapidly zoom in on the ownership and usage of vehicles and motorbikes involved in crimes before, during and after elections. Because of the connection between auto crime and electoral violence, law enforcement, public policy and community involvement must work together.

Using cutting-edge technologies, improving legislative frameworks and increasing public awareness are some strategies that can help achieve optimum results.

By working together, we can lessen the effect that vehicle crime has on electoral violence while preserving and enhancing our democratic structures. We need to play our individual roles as Ghanaians to build safer, better and more resilient communities.

The writer is a Certified Vehicle Crime Specialist/Police Detective.

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