Rising crime, tough times and support systems

Three days ago we read about a good Samaritan couple coming to the rescue of a woman who was caught stealing at a local pharmacy.

The woman, who at the time of committing the crime, claimed she was a mother who had just given birth and needed baby products for her newly-born child. The total cost of the items stolen from Niu Pharmacy last month was about $147 tala.

Pharmacy owner, Zhenna Chan Mow-Fa'aiuga, told the Samoa Observer that a couple who wanted to remain anonymous stepped forward and paid for the stolen items and the business opted not to take the matter to the Police.

“We did not want to take this matter to Police because if it is true she has a young child then we did not want for the baby to have no mother, because she could possibly go to jail,” she said.

“I do understand, I think it's all part of the hardships that people are going through and the temptations have gotten to them and they have made unfortunate choices.”

Ms. Faaiuga added, that from her perspective, incidents such as theft are a growing problem:

“I’ve seen posts from other businesses identifying the same issue, it's bad and I guess it’s the signs of the hardships. She’s definitely not the first.”

The fact that a woman – who just gave birth to a child – would choose to jeopardise her own standing in the community as well as future as a mother, and steal items for her baby is a cause for concern. 

Mind you, we do not condone theft or burglary of any kind, but it is shocking that there is no thought for self-preservation on the woman’s path. We can only assume that the difficulties that many citizens are facing at this point in time, as Ms. Faaiuga expressed, were factors behind the woman stealing from the pharmacy.

So where are the support systems for a mother who has just given birth? Surely she would have a family, not to mention the father of her child.

And it doesn't end there as on Monday night thieves broke into a Letogo property owned by sports administrator Nynette Sass and stole $3,000 tala worth of personal effects.

It is not the first time for her home to be targeted by burglars with the last one three years ago with the perpetrators caught on camera.

Ms Sass lamented the increase in home invasions and burglaries, and decried the high incidences of “disrespect and sense of entitlement” among young people, during an interview with the Samoa Observer.

“There is so much disrespect and the sense of entitlement that a lot of our young people have. I don’t know how they were raised; I think it’s one of the things that society has to answer for – it’s the upbringing of our people,” she said.

No one including Ms Sass deserves to have their private homes broken into by thugs and their personal effects stolen. She, just like any other citizen, is guaranteed certain fundamental rights under Samoa’s Constitution including freedom from inhuman treatment and freedom of movement and residence.

But why is the country experiencing a spike in crime? Is it due to a “sense of entitlement” among our young people as Ms Sass alludes to and the choices they are making not to work hard at school, become educated and then find a job to become successful in life?

On Wednesday, National University of Samoa [N.U.S.] student Christian Isaia, appeared before the Supreme Court on charges of burglary and theft. 

Presiding Justice Leiataualesa Daryl Clarke, according to a Samoa Observer article, expressed concern that the student did not seem to understand the seriousness of his crimes.

“You are appearing for sentencing for burglary and theft and this is a very serious offense. It is serious because burglary carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, for example. It is also serious because it is becoming a favourite pastime of young men in our community,” Justice Leiataualesa said.

“It [impact of his crime] doesn’t stop with prison. What will be the consequences of a conviction on you in respect of your future employment? Do you understand?”

There is no doubt a lot of our young people are going off track in terms of their moral compass and upholding the law to become law-abiding and respectful citizens. 

There is the famous saying that it takes a village to raise a child – and at this juncture of our development as a nation – it appears a lot of us parents are abandoning and forsaking our parental responsibilities to raise our children, in line with our strong Christian ethos and the fa’a Samoa.

The other day humanitarian organisation, Samoa Victim Support Group [S.V.S.G.], released statistics on incidences of gender-based violence [G.B.V.] which highlighted how reported cases had increased by 93 per cent! 

One takeaway from that S.V.S.G. quoted data is that even with a Government-declared state of emergency [S.O.E.] currently in place – which gave authorities including law enforcement officials more powers and resources to respond to breaches – vulnerable members of our society such as women remain prone to violence.

In times of a crisis, where our most vulnerable are at risk, surely those with the mandate to intervene in our societal ills would step forward. 

Victims of violence continue to cry out for justice and we can only hope that our institutions such as the Government, the churches and the villages at the community level take notice and put one step forward to begin to address this.

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