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Law and Order: Countering the threat of crime in Tanzania

Waly Wane's picture

Let's think together: Every Sunday the World Bank in Tanzania in collaboration with The Citizen wants to stimulate your thinking by sharing data from recent official surveys in Tanzania and ask you a few questions.

For many Tanzanians the fear of crime is a daily reality, especially for those living in urban areas. It negatively affects their quality of life as it makes them feel insecure and vulnerable as they go about otherwise normal activities. A few facts:

- In 2010/11 about 390,000 households (four per cent) reported that they had been severely affected by hijacking, robbery, burglary or assault (over the previous year).
- Residents of urban areas are about three times more likely than those in rural areas to be victims of these crimes. However, crimes such as cattle rustling are rampant in rural areas.
- Experiencing crime often has a lasting negative psychological impact on the victims: Six out of 10 households affected by crime over the past five years considered this to be among the two most devastating shocks that they had experienced.

Unfortunately, the lack of reliable international crime statistics makes it difficult to compare prevalence rates across countries. However, the Afrobarometer offers interesting insights into perceptions of crime across the continent:

- In 2012, 41 per cent of adult Tanzanians reported that they (or someone in their family) had feared crime in their home over the previous year.
- This is comparable to Kenya and Malawi but higher than in Uganda (33 per cent) and lower than in South Africa (54 per cent).

If not reined in, crime can have serious economic implications for Tanzania as it presents a threat to tourism, it diverts scarce public resources away from productive investments towards heightened law enforcement and increases the cost of doing business, thereby negatively impacting on productivity.

Crime and violence have multiple causes, and no easy solutions. However, providing employment opportunities for youth, building a reliable police and judicial system are key to combating crime. Unfortunately, Tanzanians who fall victims of crime seem not to go to the police:

- In 2008/09, almost 85 per cent of crime (and attempted crime) incidents that households experienced were not reported to the police.
- Despite this fact, households reported a loss of Sh220 billion, amounting to almost one per cent of total GDP.
- When crime incidents have been reported to the Police it typically leads to a dead-end. 80 per cent of households reporting an offense claim that the Police was unable to interview or arrest any suspects.

All of this raises the following questions:
- Is crime a major problem in Tanzania? For families? For business?
- What is the most effective response to crime? Increased effective law enforcement? Preventive measures, such as community campaigns and support to youth at risk?
- Why are most crimes not reported to the police? Lack of confidence? Perceptions of corruption?
- Does the police have the necessary human and financial resources to fight crime?

Note: The statistics above are based on the 2008/09 and 2010/11 National Panel Surveys and Afrobarometer reports. Data from these sources are publicly available and results can be replicated.


Submitted by Anthony N Z Sani on
If crimes can cost Tanzania as much as stated percentage of GDP,it is a cause for concern.And I want to believe the attitudes of the people to crimes and police are influenced greatly by the institutions that are in place to check crimes;and these are the police and the judiciary.Any of these two can discourage the people from reporting crimes to the police.

This brief explores popular perceptions of the crime situation in Tanzania, and the government's effectiveness in handling this issue. The findings presented are based on three Afro barometer surveys of public attitudes conducted in 2003, 2005 and 2008. The findings indicate that Tanzanians saw modest improvements in their personal safety and security between 2003 and 2005, but that there have been no further gains since then. Furthermore, although levels of theft victimization are still very high, Tanzanians nonetheless offer a generally positive assessment of the government's efforts to reduce crime. There were a number of human rights problems. Police and prison guards used excessive force against inmates and suspects, and police impunity was a problem. Prison conditions were harsh and life threatening. Police corruption and violation of legal procedures were problems, and the judiciary was corrupt and inefficient. The government partially limited freedom of speech and press, especially in Zanzibar. Government corruption remained a problem, and authorities restricted the movement of refugees. Societal violence against women and persons with albinism and women persisted. Female genital mutilation (FGM), especially of young girls, continued to be practiced. Trafficking in persons and child labor continued.

Submitted by Herbert on


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