Explaining the Effectiveness of Community-Based Crime Prevention Practices in Nigeria
There is no shortage of community-based crime prevention (CBCP) practices in Africa. They come in a variety of forms and models: neighbourhood watches, vigilantes, religious and ethnic militias, and neighbourhood guards. However, whereas the failure of the criminal justice system and formal crime prevention is hardly debatable, the effectiveness of community-based crime prevention (CBCP) practices in Africa is still a subject of controversy despite the widespread prevalence of these practices.
Through a combination of descriptive and small-N comparative case study designs, we collected primary data in four stages in a total of 18 communities in Ibadan, Nigeria. Descriptive quantitative and qualitative analyses and process tracing showed that CBCP practices were widely prevalent in Ibadan and were driven by community development associations. These practices combined elements of different non-state models such as paid security provisioning, vigilantism and neighbourhood watches. The communities also work closely with the police. Most residents described their communities as safe and crime levels as low. Importantly, most of them attributed this to their community’s CBCP practices. Social capital, community participation and communication infrastructure were high in the studied communities. These may be the factors that make it possible for the communities to organise themselves in the first instance. However, we found these factors to be equally high in both effective CBCP communities and ineffective CBCP communities. This, therefore, makes it implausible to argue that these factors explain the effectiveness of CBCP.
What makes a CBCP effective is the ability of the community development association to apply what we call the communitisation strategy, a strategy that plays out in three forms. First, the associations driving the CBCP declared nearly everything, including private spaces, as subject to community inspection and oversight. CBCPs could be intrusive of private spaces and might even be dictatorial. However, citizens did not mind this intrusion, claiming that intrusion for the sake of security was better than privacy with insecurity. Secondly, community associations also communitised some of the private concerns and problems of their members, shielding them from the complications that arise in Nigeria each time a citizen has to report a matter to the police. The association thus stood in, in the place of the concerned or aggrieved individual members. Third, community associations also communitised the role of the state: they stepped in to fund the police by supplying their vehicles with fuel, constructing police posts, repairing police patrol vans and giving police officers monetary incentives so that the communities can be well patrolled and protected. They also supplied intelligence and facilitated the arrest of suspects. The officers reciprocated by patrolling regularly and responding rapidly to distress calls from the community associations.
Babatunde Raphael OjebuyI
N. J. Onyechi Onyechi
O. J. Oyedele
I. A. Fadipe
The authors of this research work at the University of Ibadan
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