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Road deaths and crime surge. Joining the dots

Two days ago we read a story of how a Father’s Day holiday drinking session between work colleagues turned sour, when a 40-year-old man was run over in what the Police suspect is a case of vehicular homicide.

The Police have arrested and charged a 38-year-old man over the death, which occurred when the victim was walking down a road in Nu’u before Sundown on Monday, where he was run over by a Isuzu-model heavy-duty truck.

An eyewitness, Michale Mautinei of Nu’u, told the Samoa Observer that the driver of the truck did not stop to return to the scene and kept on driving down the road.

Tragically, this case is the most recent example of how our roads have become a death trap for many unsuspecting members of the public in recent months.

Last month a 24-year-old man, who was riding a bicycle, was hit by a speeding car on a bridge located within the vicinity of Lalovaea.

Preliminary reports provided by the Police, based on eyewitness accounts, pointed to a white Four Wheel Drive [4WD] Toyota Hilux that was in a race with an unidentified vehicle along Vaitele Street heading towards Malifa.

A man, allegedly a driver of one of the vehicles, has been arrested and charged by the Police. But law enforcement authorities are still on the lookout for two other drivers, whom they believe are also involved.

Also last month, a 7-year-old boy of Falelatai was killed in a hit-and-run incident, while walking home from a store not far from his home. The Police have identified the truck driver and taken him in for questioning.

These three road fatalities have occurred in the space of a month and confirms the recklessness that a lot of motorists are showing today to traffic regulations and generally the law in Samoa.

But is there a disdain in Samoa to become a law abiding citizen like most members of the community? Do we not value human life anymore that our actions today defy all forms of decency and rationality? 

In the three above mentioned cases – the offending driver drove off without stopping to check on the condition of the victim – which are spur-of-the-moment decisions that could ultimately work against them when the Courts consider the aggravating factors when deciding the culpability of their actions.

However, we shouldn’t be surprised at the blatant criminal action on display from various quarters of the community in recent months. 

Early this week the Commissioner of Police and Prisons, Fuiavaili'ili Egon Keil, confirmed that crime rates have surged across the board with increases of 25 per cent recorded across all categories from domestic violence to assault cases.

“Our crime rate has increased in all areas: from domestic violence, traffic and common crimes like assaults, throwing stones, insulting words,” he said.

When compared to the same period last year from January to July, Fuiavaili’ili said there has been an increase in crime of between 24 or 26 per cent in all categories. 

And these across the board surge in crime nationally is occurring during a Government-declared state of emergency [S.O.E.], when families and communities have been in lockdown and subject to various restrictions.

With the long arm of the law on full display as the country heads towards six months of living in an S.O.E., citizens are wondering what is the inspiration behind people breaking the law and endangering or even taking the lives of others?

We do not condone the actions of those motorists, who flagrantly disregard traffic regulations and transform our roads into their personal race courses, and believe that they should be subject to the full force of the law.

But what about the connection between the crimes and alcohol consumption by the perpetrators? 

The Police Commissioner is already on public record in 2019 urging the Liquor Board to take action to address the issue.

And while the Liquor Board concedes it cannot control the public’s alcohol consumption habits, surely a review should be done to determine the close proximity of alcohol selling points, the pricing mechanisms, and product marketing during prime time in order to formulate policies to address the issue long-term.

Nonetheless is the surge in crime a manifestation of the widening gap between the rich and the poor and consequently poverty levels in Samoa being exacerbated by the economic downturn brought on by the COVID-19 global pandemic?

Surely, there has to be an explanation for the rise in crime at this juncture, especially when citizens are living through an S.O.E. that has also inhibited the ability of ordinary citizens to earn an income and at the end of the day put food on the table for their families.

Government leaders and policymakers should not take the crime surge data for granted and work towards identifying the root causes of this rising lawlessness. 

It is time to join the dots as it could point to policy failures that should be rectified for the benefit of the people.

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