Police officers know the importance of community policing and outreach, particularly in aiding to tackle rampant crime and drug abuse among youths, and failure to foster it can lead to mistrust and a breakdown of relations with the public.
With this in mind police officers in Mpeketoni have started a series of football tournaments between them and local youths with the aim of improving community policing efforts in an area that still bears the scars of the brutal 2014 terrorist attack that left at least 61 youths, mostly men dead.
Whether the attack could have been prevented by closing in on intelligence gaps aided by better community policing is debatable, however the Mpeketoni police and youths football tournaments are playing a part in ensuring that the public feels closer and is more open with security agents so that such an episode is nipped at the bud with better community relations.
“Beside playing with the youths, police officers involved in the initiative also provide mentorship for youths involved in the the programme as well as respective teams being coached by police officers,” Inspector Joseph Kaigoya states, whose brainchild it was to start the police-youths tournaments that take place weekly.
The Mpeketoni weekly football tournaments is an idea which originated with the Mpeketoni police to bring the security agents and young people together through the power of sport
Speaking to KNA exclusively in Mpeketoni, the police officer intimated that the initiative has been well received not only by youths who are participating in the weekly tournaments but it has also caught the eye of local leaders as well.
The two year programme so far includes atleast 34 officers and 308 boys between the ages of 13 and 25.
There are usually twelve to fifteen teams training and involved in the weekly tournaments which according to locals has been well received by the Mpeketoni community.
“Local leaders, particularly, the area MP and senator have been supportive of the football tournaments, as well as sponsorship from the local area hospital which provides refreshments and first aid support for police officers and youths involved in the games,” Kaigoya says.
Siha Hospital administrator Abraham Mwachinji who also spoke to KNA over the community outreach initiative stated that the hospital got involved due to the impact that the football tournaments are having in the Mpeketoni community.
“The football initiative has aided reduce crime in Mpeketoni with hundreds of youths now involved in the programme that has the support of local, religious leaders and investors within the sub county,” Shaila Ayunga, Siha head of community relations intimates.
Sentiments echoed by Lamu West OCPD Harrison Njuguna who states that the football tournaments have played a key role in bringing the Mpeketoni community closer to the police.
“Community policing especially among the youths has greatly improved and intelligence gathering is much more efficient now due to programmes such as this which has also steered a lot of youths away from crime due to more sports involvement,” Njuguna notes.
He also observes that the outreach programme will also play a key role in preventing electoral violence between different communities since youths from across different communities are involved in the tournaments.
Mpeketoni FKF Chairman Richard Mwangi also adds that the football initiative brings in not only police officers and youths together, but also Muslims and Christians thus demystifying religious and tribal divisions.
“It is our hope that the football initiative will aid in reducing herder/ farmer conflicts in the long run,” Fred Mombasa, one of the team managers of the programme reiterates.
On his part Lamu Police County Commander Moses Mureithi lauded the initiative as being an add-on to the Nyumba Kumi initiative which aims at improving community policing within Lamu County.
by Amenya Ochieng