Published on Africa Can End Poverty

Law and Order: Countering the threat of crime in Tanzania

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ImageLet'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.


Jacques Morisset

Lead Economist and Program Leader, World Bank

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