An Australian volunteer who was doing whatever volunteers do in PNG.
I was there for 2 years until Dec 2005 .. I hope I made the most of it.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Crime Figures

This blog is a warts and all look at life in Papua New Guinea, therefore I occasionally need to look at these warts. So here are some facts that were shown on the front page of the Post Courier yesterday. It is a breakdown of figures showing the darker side of Lae.
Mamose police chief Giossi Labi said for the month of February, 32 armed robberies, 21 break and enters of commercial property and homes, nine car thefts, nine rape and carnal knowledge cases, eight murders, eight cases of assault, seven drug-related cases and five illegal firearm cases were reported.

You will notice that was just for February! Eight murders and nine rapes in a month. And the shortest month at that. Great.

Admittedly most of those murders would have been in the settlements and villages resulting from fights between family members, wantoks or already feuding tribes (don't quote me on that though), but the rape statistics are a tad alarming.

As I have said before violence against ex-pats and non-nationals is pretty rare. This is not to say that it doesn't happen. In January a long-time resident ex-pat couple in town had their house broken into while they were there. The wife was savagely beaten while the husband was held at knife point and then they were robbed. The National newspaper ran it as a frontpage story a little while after the event with a nasty photo of her blackened and bruised face on the front. Pretty horrific stuff.

Another incident in the last month that has made me shake my head was when George (my boss) was taking Joy (a colleague) out to the airport early one morning. She was flying off on a work trip using the early-bird plane. At around 3 Mile along the way a gang of men jumped out and stuck their home made gun up and tried the old fashioned hold up - not unlike the scene from my first trip to Mt Hagen. George planted his foot and drove straight at them swerving at the last second, the raskols jumped out of the way at the same time and managed to fire off their backyard shotgun. They struck the passenger door but the blast was too weak to penetrate. Looking at the car we now have a slightly damaged door, that looks like it has been hit with a bunch of high-speed nails and screws, which of course is did.

This incident freaked us all out a bit, as you would imagine. Since then we have had to do a few more early morning trips to the airport, unsurprisingly George has volunteered to do the runs.

There have been a few reports since of a few successful hold-ups and car robbing. Which compared to last year has been alarming, as there were virtually none after a major police crackdown.

Living out on campus you feel cocooned against these sort of incidents. But stuff still occasionally happens here, the odd fence being cut and mid-day bike stealing?s etc. The closet to an incident for me was when three or four raskols surrounded the security guard at the end of street, not far from my front door, at about 3 in the morning. He was sleeping of course but was awoken and upon seeing the gang screamed a horrible and loud scream (or so I was told by my neighbours - I am heavy sleeper) and took off down the street to find the nearest guard. By doing this, the gang proceeded to make a dash for it themselves and scramble back through their hole.

This is all pretty alarming stuff for the non-resident and of course it does not aid PNG's reputation abroad, particularly down south. I did a quick search on Google to see how the Australian papers view Lae. This is what it returned from the last two weeks, "PNG seeks help to build detention centre" from the SMH, "Six plunge over cliff in police chase" from The Age, "Aid worker robbed at gunpoint" from the Herald Sun and "The ticking crime bomb on our doorstep" from The Age again. Three of the four are violence related.

There has been much talk about the Australian police that will be coming up. Most of them are already in the country and originally they were supposed to be deployed to Lae around about this time. At the Australian Day party you will remember the little rotund Aus High Commissioner came and gave a speech, in that he actually said that the police would not be deployed to Lae until the end of the year, contradicting the earlier statements. I am not sure then what will happen then to their purpose built apartments constructed in town, they will probably sit empty, with the Australian taxpayer picking up the rental anyway.

I did see some good news today though. As I reported back when I was in Sydney, the publican from a nearby pub was killed, well today apparently they have caught all the perpetrators. They are being charged with murder. Fantastic news.