Hello my name is Akua Donkor – not my real name for security reasons. I was recently a victim of repeated theft – GHC200 here, GHC 300 there which prompted me to set up a hidden camera at the market place where I trade. Fortunately my camera caught a young man on video taking money from my box when I had left to go and use the washroom.
When I showed the video to some area boys, they wanted to pounce on him and beat him the next time he came to deliver water to us, but I knew they might end up killing him so I rather contacted the police and they sent an officer to come and watch the video. We then waited until the man came to deliver water and he was arrested and taken to the police station.
First I had to leave my store for someone to watch for me while I spent almost three hours at the police station before I was able to write my statement. After writing my statement I left to return to my store with the man still in counterback.
The following day I received a call from one of the police officers from the station asking me where I was. I told him I was at my shop and that I was waiting for them to advise me on the next steps. To my surprise he was yelling at me that how do I expect them to feed the prisoner. I was so shocked that I only managed to utter the words “why is that my business?”
The officer got even more upset this time and blurted out “fine, if it is not your business, then it is also not our business so we are releasing him.” I asked why and he said they cannot starve him to death but they don’t have money to feed the prisoner so I had to bring him food.
So I was faced with two choices – either I allow them to set the person who has been stealing money from me free, or I had to bring him food to eat. I quickly bought some food and brought it to the police station where they asked me to taste the food before giving it to him. Apparently that is to ensure that I don’t put poison in the food to kill him.
Apparently this thief did not have anyone to come and bail him out so as long as he remained in the police custody, I had to be the one providing the person who stole money from me breakfast, lunch, and dinner, which I can’t even afford for myself. So after a couple of days of doing this I was forced to drop the charges and the thief was set free.
Now I wish I had listened to the market boys to deliver vigilante justice and beat him. Indeed I now understand why in Ghana it is easier to subscribe to the vigilante mob justice when a thief is caught. In my heart I don’t believe in this jungle system. But what choices do we have?
Are we to believe that the police stations are not given a budget to feed prisoners in their custody? If so, then the Ministry of Interior has a few questions to answer. And if a budget is provided and the police is still forcing victims of crime to be the ones feeding their attacker, then someone is pocketing the money somewhere.
How do we fight crime in a country where victim of crime are confronted with these two very unfavorable option?