Poverty-crime on increase

HARARE - More people are engaging in petty crimes that have fatal implications while underage children have become frequent participants in criminal activity with legal and social experts pointing to increasing poverty levels as a major cause to erosion of the country’s social fabric.

The courts have, in recent months, been busy with such cases.

Recently, a Mt Hampden man struck his friend with a brick during a fist fight and the latter lost three of his teeth over $1.

In yet another puzzling case in Epworth, a man killed his friend over a bottle of opaque beer.

Two teenagers also connived to murder their brother’s friend over an $8 debt while a Borrowdale gardener killed a hooker because he could not pay for her services.

According to an Overseas Security Advisory Council (Osac) United States Department Zimbabwe 2017 Crime & Safety Report Overall crime increased 10-20 percent across most sectors.

“Lingering effects from the 2016 introduction of bond notes, Zimbabwean currency that is not backed by securities but remains pegged at 1-1 with the United States dollar continues to drive increasing rates of crime across all sectors,” reads the report.

“The thirst for genuine US dollars that can be exported or exchanged on the international markets is the motivation behind the constant criminal threat of targets of opportunity to include robberies, petty theft, vehicle burglaries, home invasions, and smash-and-grab vehicle attacks at intersections at night (usually at intersections with inoperable traffic lights).

“Due to the combined political and economic conditions, the US Embassy continues to strongly advise against walking alone in the main city centres of Harare or Bulawayo during hours of darkness.”

Social worker Anesu Svinurai said the increase in crime abuse could not be separated from poverty as one condition influenced the other.

“I am sure that you have the sayings “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop” or “a hungry man is an angry man”. This is very true in the most practical sense as people are more likely to develop criminal minds if they have nothing occupying their time,” he said.

“There is a higher rate of mental illness among the poor than the rich. Poverty can lead to high levels of stress, which in turn drive individuals to commit theft, robbery or other violent acts. Trends have shown that societies that are poverty stricken tend to produce more crime and this is an issue that should actually be solved at national level. A lot needs to be done.”

The Zimbabwe Republic Police has constantly warned of an increase in robberies and theft urging the public to avoid secluded places and keeping large sums of money on their person and properties.

Legal expert Gift Mtisi said the increase in crime rates could be attributed to poverty

“…though without statistical figures, the increase in crime rate is attributed to poverty. For many impoverished people, the prize that crime yields may outweigh the risk of being caught. Thus, poverty increases crime rates,” Mtisi said.

Another expert Liberty Gono said incidences of ex-convicts who immediately dive into criminal activity after release showed that poverty needed to be dealt with.

“Anyone who has been following the news knows that a number of people who were released during the last presidential pardon are back in prison for crimes probably worse than those they were serving for,” Gono said.

“Clearly our society has been hard hit by poverty to such an extent that jail no longer scares anyone. If you look at the kind of offences committed by these people most of them yield economic gains to the perpetrators.”


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