PNG CRIME RATE RISING DESPITE BEST EFFORTS

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By Phil-Peers Yombon at the Law and Order Summit

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (April 9, 1999 - The National)---Papua New Guinea’s crime rate continues to escalate despite the best efforts of the police to overturn this trend, the Law and Order Summit was told yesterday.

Director of Criminal Investigation Huasolo Raphael said the crime rate was increasing while the success rate in arresting criminals remained low.

Police were also having a hard time trying to combat white-collar crime because of a lack of education and funds. This generally involved the theft of public funds by the so-called elite in society.

Mr. Raphael said white-collar crime represented a new problem for the police. Often this crime was rooted in political and bureaucratic circles where frequent misappropriation of funds occurred.

Consequently, public funds to be used for the benefit of the people were "actually stolen," he said.

In terms of serious criminal offenses -- armed robberies, murders, sexual offenses, hijacks and other serious offenses -- the proportion of successful arrests has remained low while crimes were increasing all the time.

Mr. Raphael said that in order to overturn escalating crime rates the police had to improve its investigation procedures and the collection of intelligence reports, while giving prompt attention to the scene of a crime.

He said one of the best ideas to emerge has been the institution of community policing, adding that it should be introduced to all suburbs.

The police could also involve local communities in discussions of mutual concern, to address issues within the community, he said. Efforts could be made to improve police operations and investigations, he added.

Director of Traffic John Maru said PNG has the highest accident rate in the Asia Pacific region, with the exception of Indonesia.

The number of accidents is highest in the capital followed by the provinces of Morobe, Western Highlands, Eastern Highlands, East New Britain and Enga, Maru said.

Most accidents could be blamed on lack of driver education, drunk driving, and corruption linked to unlawful ways in which people get their driving licenses.

Mr. Maru also told the summit that tribal fights were becoming difficult for the police to solve because of the increasing use of firearms.

He said one of the most serious tribal war with firearms was the Yambatani Watenge versus Yambatani Pausa tribal war at Wapenamanda in Enga Province. Between 1990 and 1994, he said, it claimed more than 1,000 lives and the loss of property worth K1 million.

Often police are prevented from intervening in tribal disputes because of the removal of bridges as well as the establishment of roadblocks, Mr. Maru said.`

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