The National – Thursday, December 23, 2010
NINETEEN air rifles along with some ammunition were surrendered last week by communities along the Ok Tedi and Alice River in Western.
Acting Deputy Commissioner of Police Fred Yakasa applauded the efforts of mobile squad 19 section one team by successfully carrying out the operation.
Yakasa said the success of the surrender of weapons was through public relations and awareness exercises and not through police raids.
“Having villagers surrendering their guns through peaceful awareness is appreciated and I commend the efforts of squad 19 and their commanding officer.
“It is high time policemen realise that good public relations and community policing skills can achieve a lot more than brute force,” he said.
Yakasa said as chief of police operations, he would support such efforts.
The police awareness team comprised of a woman and three men with assistance of acting police station commander of Kiunga, Snr Const Kevin Akia.
Illegal firearms and ammunition trade was the main issue addressed including alcohol abuse, homebrew, drug consumption and smuggling and other police-related matters that the community needed to know.
The operation was an eye-opener for the Atkemba villagers who voluntarily surrendered their firearms.
“The members were mostly young graduates who had passed out from Bomana early this year.
“But their efforts and skills convinced and influenced the communities during their campaign to confiscate 19 illegal and unlicensed air rifles that were voluntarily surrendered to police in the presence of the village working committees and the rest of the villagers,” Yakasa said.
It is believed that many more high-powered firearms such as AR15s, A2s and SIG rifles are in the hands of the villagers.
This was supported by eyewitness accounts as well as during the handing over of 5.56 calibre cartridges during the awareness by a villager from Atkemba.
Akia said they had visited only one village, however, he suspected that other villages such as Yaran, Bongubun, Dome, Yogi, Komopkin, Neigomban and Ningrum, which are all along the Fly River, also possessed high-powered firearms.
He added that more public relations and awareness programmes needed to be conducted in each of these villages.
However, police will require more support in terms of finance, manpower and transport to address the firearms and other issues of concern within the area.
Akia confirmed that the 19 illegal arms that were confiscated will be stored away in a container after all formalities are done.