The rising number of cases of violent crimes that include armed robberies and murder across the country point to an emerging crisis that needs urgent and decisive action by law enforcement agencies.
Business has lost millions of dollars in recent months to armed robbers, who pounce in broad daylight and do not hesitate to shoot to kill.
A shopkeeper was recently killed in Bulawayo after armed robbers raided a liquor outlet where they robbed customers and got away with an undisclosed amount of money.
Last month another gang of armed robbers pounced on a Choppies supermarket branch in the city where they seized cash boxes from security guards.
There have also been reports of armed assailants breaking into people’s homes at night and this has left citizens feeling very vulnerable.
The most disturbing thing about these crimes is that they appear to be perpetrated by people who are trained to use firearms such as soldiers and police officers.
These are people that also have easy access to guns. Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe admitted as much when he was quizzed by senators about rising cases of armed robberies.
Kazembe said: “It is indeed true that most of these cases of armed robberies are being done by armed men and women from the police force as well as the army.”
He blamed the crime rate on lack of resources for police officers, which means that they have reduced patrols and take too long to react to reports of criminal activities.
Besides the lack of resources, the authorities should be addressing the proliferation of guns that are being used to commit robberies and kill innocent people.
If the government believes, as Kazembe stated, that police officers and soldiers are behind the armed robberies, it would be prudent to address the problem at the source.
The authorities need to interrogate the source of the ammunition that is falling into the wrong hands. Rogue soldiers and police officers would have to be flushed out of the system.
Law enforcement also need to be capacitated to carry out proper investigations that will lead to successful prosecution of offenders so that they are removed from society.
There is also a correlation between the release of prisoners on pardons and a surge in criminal activities.
That speaks to the need to properly vet beneficiaries of amnesties to ensure that serial offenders are not released only to return to their old lives of crime.
The safety of citizens must be prioritised by ensuring that guns are not in the wrong hands.