New Breed of Criminals – Liberia’s Pickpockets Known As “Zogos”
Monrovia – In Liberia, the prevailing economic situation continues to drive a good number of youths to the streets with some engaging in criminal activities for survival.
Unemployment is high for the semi educated and educated, leaving the uneducated with no hope of earning a livelihood. The number of criminals on streets of Monrovia has grown within the last few years and new group continues to emerge making the citizenry to live in apprehension of fear from these criminals.
Besides the folks who live in ghettos and shanty structures coming out at night to hijack people, another group has emerged. They roam the busy streets during the day, pretending to be car loaders but are instead hanging around to find a way to pick pockets and snatch things from people.
“At first, they were called pick pockets, but now we call them Zogos, because they are so many like the caterpillars and they are everywhere stealing from us in the name of finding cars for us to go home,” says passenger Peter Kesseley of Paynesville.
Pedestrians these days are very conscious of how they hold their hand bags, Laptop bags, cellphones and other items, or it would be snatched away from them in a twinkling of an eye by the pseudo car loaders aka “Zogos”.
Walking through the traffic jammed Red Light on a hot afternoon in search of a vehicle to get to central Town, it was observed that a youth dressed in a dingy T-shirt and a torn up jeans, walked up to a lady who was also looking for a transport vehicle to get to Old Road, and said “Oldma, if you find me dime, I will get a car for you to go.”
The middle aged lady, who looked tired, reluctantly agreed, but in the effort of chasing a vehicle, the youth shouted at the top of his voice to one of his kind who was standing near the lady, “Hey you, stop opening the oldlady bag. Why do you like to steal, do you want to make me look bad, like I am rouge? Then he turned to the lady and said; “Oldma, I will provide you maximum security, so nobody can touch you.”
At that moment everybody standing around held tight onto their bags, but started laughing and said, ‘look at pot calling tea kettle black’. Which means a thief is calling another person a thief. After the incident, those who witnessed the drama started conversing and citing instances they were robbed by Zogos.
“The other day, I was answering my phone on Carey Street and then a zogo just came up and slapped me and jerked my phone from my hands, and said to me, You know I was waiting for my sister’s call, for the Western Union number, and you took my phone from the house ever since?
I was so shocked and confused and when I shouted thief, he was already gone with my phone. And others standing by said they thought the thief was my boyfriend, from the drama he displayed,” said a young girl, also waiting for vehicle.
According to Eugene David, Executive Director for Liberians against Drug Abuse, the Zogoes, of which many were child soldiers, got hooked on drugs for 10 or more years. He said they are engaged in the snatching away valuables to support their drug habits as a regular way of life.
“These youth are sick because they are addicted to drugs. My partners and I are looking at ways to help these youth. We have established a Sunday meal to feed them on Sunday because during the week they go to restaurants, cook shops to beg for left overs but on Sundays, they have nowhere to get food so they look up to us every Sunday to give them food,”
Mr. Davies said his organization is not feeding the drugs addicted youth to tell them that street life or drugs addiction is good, but to tell them that they have them in mind and are working hard to rehabilitate them.
And because they know that there are no rehabilitation centers in the country. They are also presently collecting data in Montserrado as a case study because it is highly populated with over 500,000 drug users. So they want to see how best they can develop a rehabilitation center to help the young people and the nation.
As to whether drugs intake has an effect on why zogos keep themselves filthy, Mr. Davies said constant drugs intake damages the brain, because it goes directly to the brain and has the tendency of slowing the part of the brain that reasons.
“This is why when people are doing drugs, they do not shower, or go to school or go back home to live, because it creates an empire for them to always be together. That is why they always gather in a place to stay together because they cannot share their feelings with a normal person.
At such point, they are mentally ill, because no normal man will sleep and live in graves. I can say that if we do not tackle this problem of drug addiction, we will run into a serious problem in the next five years,” Davies emphasized.