Thursday, July 25, 2024

Need to Strengthen Community Policing


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Meghalaya is a transit route for drugs coming in from the Manipur and Mizoram route via Silchar. It is no secret that the State now has a growing number of substance abusers including injecting drug users as is evident from the syringes carelessly thrown around at various places. Disenchanted young people with no roadmap for the future tend to resort to drug use and before long they are addicted beyond redemption. What is also a matter of concern is that the number of detoxification and rehabilitation centres are very few compared to the number of people needing help. There is the Meghalaya Institute Mental Health and Neurological Sciences (MIMHANS) in Shillong and the SANKER Nursing home – the first rehabilitation centre for alcoholics and drug abusers as well as people with mental health problems. There are other rehabilitation centres in the districts but they are unable to deal with the burgeoning problems.
There is an urgent need to reduce the influx of drugs but to expect the police alone to do it is futile. The police have their hands full tackling crime related to drug use which is a string of thefts occurring in every locality of Shillong. It is common to find petty thieves cutting down electrical wires and cables so they can sell the copper to meet their craving for drugs. There are home break-ins and stealing of other public utilities too. For an addict not getting his/her fix results in severe withdrawal symptoms that pushes the person to do desperate deeds just so he/she can get the next fix. The recent conclave on substance abuse organised by the Social Welfare Department pointed to the need for pro-active participation of the Dorbar Shnong to prevent the spread of drug use through vigilance within the shnong but to also provide rehabilitation centres. Dealing with addicts to substance abuse is a gruelling task. It involves psychiatric treatment where the entire family must necessarily participate and is a long and arduous journey.
Community policing and vigilance alone can reduce substance abuse and crime as well. There were times when community policing was part and parcel of policing in Meghalaya. It inherently means citizens assisting the police in their duties. But so much depended on the police chiefs and their interest in involving the public. Some have done well; others have neglected this aspect. The basic principle underlying community policing is that a policeman is a citizen in uniform and a citizen is a policeman without the uniform. The point is to narrow the gap between the police and citizens to the point that the police become an integrated part of the community. The principle is to build a bond with the community so that citizens themselves become vigilant reporters of crime. There has always been a deep trust deficit between the police and citizens for several reasons. It is important to reduce this gap and build trust so that there is better maintenance of public order through better crime detection and prevention.

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