By MARTHA DERUAGE
KOKI in Port Moresby is notorious for its petty crime and the harassment of commuters daily.
Apart from other facilities, Koki boasts the best fish market in Port Moresby that attracts people from across the city.
Yet, many cringe when they travel to do their marketing or just travel by to go to their work place.
Lately, petty crimes have been decreasing all thanks to the new Koki community policing team set up last year.
This team of 20 men work from 6am-8pm every day to ensure public safety, maintain law and order, protect business houses, do mediation, direct PMV buses at the bus stop and clean the place, especially the market.
Men in blue shirts walk around the streets of Koki, directing buses, shouting orders and cleaning the market.
They are not police officers, just men assigned to fight crime at the community level.
“We started working last July after seeing the need to help fight petty crime, maintain law and order, and to make Koki a safe place for people to travel and do their business,” Community Policing operation supervisor KBoy Balavu says.
“Our role is mainly to help solve issues at the community level and issues that require police attention, we bring to the police station.
“It’s a rewarding job because we are helping police to fight crime at the community level and to help restore people’s confidence to not have fear when travelling to Koki.”
The Koki community policing was initiated by Moresby South MP Justin Tkatchenko with the aim to fight crimes and ensure public safety.
Tkatchenko also provided a vehicle for the team to ensure that their work is effective. They have an office set up in the market area.
“When we catch those petty criminals, we take them to the police station so the police can deal with them. The vehicle makes our work effective,” Balavu said.
“With issues regarding the community, we deal with them directly to reach an agreement suitable for all.
“Our officers are mostly from Wanigela village.
“We also protect business houses around Koki and do mediation at the Wanigela village.
“Our aim is to make sure that people feel safe when they come to do their business.
“We also clean up the market and care for the vendors. We want people to come do their business because that brings money to the community.
“We do care about the welfare of the community and want what is best for them.
“Koki has good facilities that have the potential to attract people to come do their shopping.
“The more people come, the more money they bring which is good for the community because it helps sell their produce. That would help sustain their living in the city.”
Balavu says the only issue is to have proper uniforms and tools to make their work much more effective.
He says there is a community policing team set up a few years ago but is not that effective in fighting crime.
Balavu believes that this team is very effective as they are more involved outside on the streets.
“With proper tools and more manpower, we will restore Koki to being a safe area,” he said.
A vendor, Willie Thomas, who sells drinks near the bus stop, commended their work.
“The community policing team have done a great job in helping to fight petty crimes,” Thomas said.
“We can see improvements from before they start. People are more at ease when they travel now.
“I believe they need more manpower to cover all areas. At the moment, the officers on the ground are not many and some crimes escape their eyes.
“The only critique that I have is that they are too aggressive towards vendors but at the end of the day, we look up to them.”
The Koki Community policing covers Baidili to Town areas also.
Apart from Koki, Sabama also has a community policing set up.
Balavu commended Moresby Tkatchenko for the initiative.
He also thanked their community leader from Wanigela Gilon Auma for pushing to have the team established.
“Koki is being restored slowly and we aim to be the push factor behind it,” Balavu said.
“I would like to assure people around the city to feel free when visiting Koki.
“We have officers on the ground to make sure you as an individual get on the bus safety without getting harassed or come do your shopping.
By MARTHA DERUAGE