An investigation conducted by a Daily Observer team has learnt that, presently 15 criminals— who were arrested and convicted for murder and rape— are on the loose after a jail-break from Sinoe Central Prison. The escapees are believed to be in hiding. Our reporter, who just came back from Sinoe was told in Greenville that the escaped convicts have been victimizing other Liberians. He was also told that they (prisoners) cannot easily be caught due to constraints facing the Sinoe County Police Department.
The jail-break took place on Monday, November 18th about 10:00 p.m. 17 convicted criminals escaped, and only two run-away criminals were caught, while 15 are at-large.
Though it has not been confirmed by UNMIL Civil Affairs in Greenville or the Sinoe County Police Department, convicted murderer Tamba Tengbeh is believed to be one of the escaped criminals, with a poster with inscription: ‘Wanted for Murder,’ and containing his image, being displayed on most walls in Greenville and other parts of Sinoe County.
The Chief Superintendent of Sinoe County Police Department, Lloyd Bowen Togba, and CSD Commander McWally Wilmot Wleh, both confirmed the jail-break in separate interviews, but failed to give any details concerning the number of criminals at-large.
The two senior security officers also failed to respond to questions asked about the constraints and challenges facing the police concerning the re-arrest of the escaped prisoners.
Recently, there were reports that another jail break had taken place at the Voinjama Central Prison in Voinjama City, Lofa County.
Police Short-staffed, No Vehicles
A police officer, who begged for anonymity, told the Daily Observer that the short-staff of the police and lack of logistics are the two main restraints which are hampering the police’s ability to battle crimes in Sinoe.
The insider disclosed that Sinoe County has only 36 police officers to protect the lives and properties of over 120,000 citizens.
He said that only 17 police officers are assigned in Greenville, a city with a population of over 60,000, while the remaining 19 officers are assigned in other parts of Sinoe County, which has 17 districts and covering 10.4 km2 land mass.
The insider named some of the towns or areas as: Togbaville, BOPC/EPO, Tarjuowon, Kpanyan, and Dugbeh River amongst others.
The insider also told the Daily Observer that the Police Department’s only has two-assigned vehicles, which have ‘broken down’ and they only rely on a bike that is being used by Chief Superintendent Togba.
“Without UNMIL’s vehicles, we cannot get to most crime scenes,” the police officer explained.
Sinoe Police Gets Pay in Grand Gedeh, Bassa…
Another police officer, who also asked to remain anonymous, told the Daily Observer that the absence of Ecobank in Sinoe County, which the Liberia National Police (LNP) are paid through, is also an obstacle against the effectiveness of the police.
He said the constant travel of officers to Grand Gedeh, Bassa, or other counties just to get their pay, affects the operations of the Sinoe police.
“How much do we get paid before wasting our time spending L$4,000 to go to Grand Gedeh or Bassa to go stand in line to collect our pay-checks? To make matters worse, we have no vehicles to leave our own county,” the officer said.
The officer added: “The Sinoe Police Department needs at least four cars, ten motorbikes and pay that is administered through First International Bank that is here.”
Understaffed, but Peaceful
In spite of their being merely 36 police officers in Sinoe County, our investigation showed that for the last three years there have been two reported cases of rape, one murder, and no case of armed-robbery.
When we quizzed Chief Superintendent, Lloyd Bowen Togba, about the crime rate in the county, he boasted of the LNP’s Sinoe branch maintaining law and order in the county, but failed to state the quality of the conditions the police in the county work under.
CSD Commander McWally Wilmot Wleh, who has been in command since 2006, boasted that Sinoe is the most peaceful county in the Southeast.
Mohammed Jalloh, a businessman in Sinoe, said that for the past 10 years he has not experienced robbery or harassment, which is why recent reports related to the escaped convicts have him worried. He hoped that the police would be able to contain the situation as soon as possible.