POLICE chiefs in four Metro Cebu cities said they observed fewer crimes in their communities since the gun ban took effect last Jan. 10.

Preliminary official reports showed fewer crimes in Talisay since January and in Mandaue since February.

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Cebu City Police Chief Patrocenio Comendador believes the gun ban has helped in their campaign against crime. Beginning October last year, when they first launched the National Firearms Control Program, they saw many arrests of armed persons during checkpoints.

These days, he said these arrests of armed persons at checkpoints are rare. “Maayo if naa’y usa sa usa ka semana (We’re lucky if we can arrest one each week),” Comendador said.

Acting Lapu-Lapu City Police Director Mariano Natuel said their checkpoints since the gun ban took effect reduced crime, but couldn’t give any data since the homicide and theft sections are still preparing their quarterly reports.

Since the implementation of the gun ban, 79 firearms have been confiscated as of February while 83 persons have been arrested in Central Visayas.

For January and February, 264 crimes were committed with the use of firearms.

Of the 264 incidents, 111 happened in Cebu Province, 59 in Cebu City, 38 in Bohol, 25 in Negros Oriental, 16 in Lapu-Lapu City, 13 in Mandaue City and two in Siquijor.

Comparative figures for the first quarter were not yet available.

If there is an increase in the crime volume this year despite the implementation of a gun ban during the election period, police are crediting it to a change in their crime accounting system.

Regional Intelligence Division Chief Melvin Ramon Buenafe said they cannot compare the number of crimes recorded last year with this year because of the new system.

This year, the Philippine National Police has opted to include crimes reported directly to the barangays or directly filed before the prosecutor’s office.

These crimes are not reported to the police station.

Buenafe said this change was implemented to get a more accurate picture of the crime situation.

“Because we are now stricter with our crime reporting, it is expected that crimes will be higher this year,” Comendador said.

Comendador believes those who own firearms are more careful, as they know they face an additional year’s imprisonment if they are caught bringing firearms during the election period.

“It is only these young gang members who do not understand the implications,” Comendador said.

But Buenafe believes crimes in Central Visayas were reduced this year and that “there is no deterioration of peace and order” in the region.

Mandaue

In Mandaue, the police credited regular checkpoints during the election period for a drop in homicide, murder, theft and robbery cases in February, compared to the same month last year.

Acting City Police Director Sr. Supt Noel Gillamac is studying the “redeployment of troops” to put more beat and mobile patrols in crime-prone areas during the hours when most crimes are committed.

In February, 14 physical injury complaints reached the Mandaue police, compared to 50 in the same month last year. Theft dropped to 49 (from 105) and robbery dropped as well to 23 (from 44).

In January, the Mandaue City police’s records painted a grimmer picture. Physical injury incidents increased from five in 2009 to 20 in January 2010. Robbery also showed a marked increase, from four last year to 20 incidents in January this year. From seven thefts in January 2009, the number went up to 22 this year.

Talisay

Talisay City Police Chief Henry Biñas said the gun ban greatly reduced the city’s crime volume from 53 in 2009 to only 35 for the first two months this year.

Physical injury was the most common complaint, followed by theft and robbery. But exact figures were not available as of press time.

At least two persons were arrested for violating the Comelec gun ban.

“The implementation of the gun ban is really a strong deterrent to crimes and election-related violence because we have to intensify our random checkpoints,” Biñas said.

Lapu-Lapu

In Lapu-Lapu, Natuel said the police are doing their best to curb criminality, despite a lack of manpower.

“Dili man nato ni madali. Dako na kaayo ang population sa Lapu-Lapu pero kami kulang gihapon sa tawo, (We cannot do this overnight. The population is so large and we still lack police personnel) but I can produce figures later,” he said. (MEA/With OCP, GC, AIV)