Citizen Participation in Intelligence Gathering: A Tool for Crime Prevention and Control in Nigeria

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Solomon M. Ekolama

Crime fighting is a challenge globally. On a daily basis, crimes are being committed, with the perpetrators constantly thinking up and adopting new and sophisticated techniques, leading to high-profile crimes, even across international borders. Consequently, the Nigerian Government must adopt technologies, which of course have become an integral part of crime fighting globally in order for the government and its security agencies to be ahead of criminals and be able to reduce their menace to a minimal level.

At the apex of crime fighting is Intelligence, otherwise known as Intel. It is the fulcrum on which crime prevention, control and investigation revolves. Uppermost in the minds of security operatives is crime prevention and control before investigation. For crime prevention and control to be perfect, intelligence gathering must be gotten right.

This is where intelligence gathering network, backup by an adequate technology, plays a leading role in crime fighting. Intel gathering, from the global perspective, is a platform for extracting reports from the public and using same for military planning and operations. Gathering may be through military intelligence, government intelligence, or commercial intelligence networks, which are the anchor of secret services such as the MI5, MI6, CIA, FBI, INTERPOL, NATO, DIA, BIN, etc.

Technology must be an integral part in crime fighting. For instance, in the advanced countries, law enforcement agencies are now using statistical analysis and predictive modelling in the fight against crime. Police and government authorities are combing through data to identify trends and to highlight possible correlations between events. As a result, police authorities have a better handle on crime in the areas they are protecting, as well as a better idea of what to expect in the future by establishing causality between specific trigger events and criminal activities. The down part of this result is digital tracking.

Digital tracking has been faced with stiff opposition by the masses that see it as infringement on their fundamental human rights, causing waves of agitation globally. Consequently, the pivot of crime fighting is now citizen participation in intelligence gathering. This has helped to build a strong relationship between the government and the masses.

Building strong relationships with the public is a major component in community policing and has played a significant role in reducing crime rates. Community-oriented policing inverts traditional and hierarchical policing methods and puts the focus on proactive and collaborative efforts from local police departments and community stakeholders alike. By and large, community-oriented policing has been shown to be highly effective in reducing crime rates and creating a sense of trust and security among citizens.

In Nigeria, there is a disconnect in the relationship between the public and the component in community policing which has been severed by the reported ill-treatment given to those who volunteer security intelligence to security operatives in the past, as well as the alleged sabotage by unscrupulous security personnel who decide to either ignore or hoard security intelligence voluntarily given. This explains the apparent apathy on the part of the populace to cooperate with security agencies in furnishing security intelligence.

The article of BolajiTunji entitled ‘No the Police Can’t just be your friend’,” published in Daily Sun, Friday 25 August, 2017, sheds more light on the perceived apathy on the part of the populace.

Consequently, the first task in the fight against crime in Nigeria is to overcome this “perceived apathy.” This task must be approached from triple and complementary perspectives:
1. There must be a technology that is flexible and acceptable by the populace to report intelligence.

2. Such technology must create a synergy among all security agencies in Nigeria, that is, the Police, Army, Navy, Air force, etc and
3.Reports from such technology must be handled discretely by superior security operatives only, and by order being passed down to junior officers

This is the only means to re-establish a harmonious relationship between the public and the component of community policing in Nigeria. Being able to understand the unique needs of various neighbourhoods while effectively communicating with citizens of diverse backgrounds is an incredibly important component in strengthening community relationships.

Once this component of intelligence gathering is put in the right perspective, the technology for intelligence gathering through the community locals can now be synchronized with other digital technologies such as device tracking, security cameras and other key tools in crime fighting. As the public and private systems see further integration, working in synergy with security operatives, the citizens can now avail the security agencies the opportunity of providing adequate intelligence not only to examine crime scenes after the act, but also to monitor streets, businesses, and public transit systems for potential dangers.

With over 216 million connected telephone lines in Nigeria, and 97.21 million Mobile Internet users, Nigeria is now ripe for citizen participation in crime prevention and control through intelligence gathering.

Effective intelligence gathering of this nature must act through a web-agent, which plays a dual role. On one side, the populace sees it as a friendly app to report crime directly to superior authority without entangling themselves with junior security operatives. On the other hand, it serves as a tool for security operatives in tracking and monitoring behind-the-scene activities that may lead to crimes. With this, a databank of security intelligence could be built and armed with the analysis of these data; security operatives in Nigeria could gain greater understanding of the types of crimes prevalent in specific areas, during specific times and seasons across the country.

In this circumstance, the web-agent must provide an electronic platform for members of the public to report emergencies and all forms of crimes, security breaches, and other activities that threaten the safety, security, and economic well-being of individuals, communities, and the government alike. Such reports must be filtered based on the degree of emergency and the extent to which it is either safety- or security-related, and is instantly transmitted via Short Message Service (SMS) to the relevant security command headquarters and safety agencies in real time. Consequently, security operatives can act instantly to mitigate any perceived action.

In conclusion, criminal activities in Nigeria have deepened, with a more worrisome fact of a perceived apathy on the side of the populace to furnish security agencies with intelligence that may mitigate such acts. In the face of this impasse, I wish to recommend a more subtle approach – a tool such as a web-agent that provides a user-friendly interface, which is more acceptable to the populace than an outright confrontation of device tracking.

In other words, while the web-agent plays a front role in intelligence gathering, it subtly plays behind-the-scene role in device tracking, which is more acceptable and holistic in crime fighting and security concerns management.

Once we get this bit right, we can then doff our hats as a nation and say that we are now in a position to combat crime in the right way and in the right direction through effective citizen participation in crime prevention and control.

Engr. Ekolama is a lecturer and research engineer with the Niger Delta University, Wilberforce Island, Bayelsa State
Email: sm.ekolama@gmail.com