Police say no to vigilante justice

10 January 2017 | Crime

The Windhoek City Police on Sunday pleaded with Namibians not to take the law into their own hands.

This followed the beating of a suspected thief by Goreangab residents on Saturday and the arrest of one of the men who attacked him.

Hundreds of comments on social media praised and supported the civilian action taken against the suspected thief, who had been caught red-handed. Many listed previous experiences of delayed police response, while others said petty theft was not deterred by lenient laws.

“These idiots steal people's belongings, sell them and when arrested they are released on bail or given warnings … People are tired of working hard to provide for themselves and then come those who believe they are professional thieves,” one comment read.

Another commentator noted that “we are tired as a nation and the public should not be blamed for taking the law into their own hands.”

According to the City Police, the suspect broke into a shack on Saturday morning where he stole between N$400 and N$500 and a wallet, a 4.5kg gas cylinder and a cellphone.

Shortly after he had fled the scene of the crime residents confronted him and discovered the stolen goods on him.

A group of residents responded by assaulting the suspect, police said yesterday. One man was later arrested after the suspect had identified him to the police. He was charged with assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

The thief was also arrested and a case of housebreaking and theft was opened against him.

City Police Constable Edmund Khoaseb warned that vigilante action would only worsen crime in the country.

“If you take the law into your own hands, then we are not law-abiding citizens anymore, we are law-breaking citizens. Two wrongs do not make a right,” he said.

He added that the country is governed by laws and citizens should not attempt to “seek their own justice” but should rely on the relevant authorities to do so.

The City Police on Sunday posted three photographs showing the injuries sustained by the suspected thief, whose name has not been made public yet.

The photographs were posted alongside text urging Namibians not to break the law in the name of justice.

“Please don't violate the due process of law! This suspect was attacked yesterday by public members after being caught stealing at Goreangab. He sustained injuries and was taken to the hospital. The City Police hereby request the public to refrain from taking the law in their own hands. Always call the police and let the law take its course,” the Facebook post read.


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