Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Liberia - phones against crime

Phones to tackle Liberia robbers

Liberia's government is giving away free mobile phones to help residents call the police to help tackle a soaring crime rate.

Each of 400 communities around the capital, Monrovia, will be given 10 phones, pre-programmed with a free police hotline to report crimes.

There will be a prize for the community which reports the most crimes.

But cynics point out that mobile phones are a prime target for armed robbers in Liberia, recovering from years of war.

"When armed robbers break into your home, the first thing they ask for is your cell phone," said Monrovia resident Martin Lombeh.

Correspondents say that mobile phone usage is common in Liberia but many people are put off calling the police to report a crime because of the cost of making a call.

Liberia's 14-year civil war ended in 2003 but many thousands of ex-combatants have not yet found jobs in civilian life.

Some have turned to armed robbery, while the small police force struggles to cope.

Officers only go into dangerous areas with the backing of UN peacekeepers.

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