In broad daylight

Guyana Chronicle
September 23, 1999

YESTERDAY'S crime drama had all the elements of an action movie script.

The production began on America Street (commonly referred to as Wall Street) with a robbery attack involving four or five bandits. They were said to be wearing flak jackets and masks, and were shooting with machine guns.

After the robbery, the men are said to have escaped in the ubiquitous white car which has more or less become a signature item of recent robbery attacks. The criminals left in their wake, several injured persons, one of whom is a cop. He is said to be in stable condition following surgery at the Georgetown Hospital.

A few hours later, the Police informed media houses that they had cordoned off an area in New Providence where the robbers were believed to be hiding out in the canefields. A stand-off then ensued. The Police, with the assistance of the Guyana Defence Force and tracker dogs, were in an offensive to flush the bandits out of the canefield. And up to the time of this column being written, one bandit had been shot dead.

Whatever the outcome of this drama, the most important lesson for the law-abiding public is that the perpetrators of violent crime have reached a new plateau of bold and devil-may-care daring. Not only are they prepared to rob and pillage, maim and kill to wrest cash, jewellery and other valuables from citizens, but they are also bold enough and confident enough to enact their terror tactics in broad daylight.

Over the last three or so years, the Guyanese populace has witnessed several calculated and cold-blooded killings and robberies perpetrated on about a dozen well-known businessmen in the capital as well as on the East Bank of Demerara, on the Essequibo Coast, and in New Amsterdam.

One of the most shocking was the killing of Neville Sarjoo, America Street businessman and sports patron. Between the Sarjoo killing in May 1998 and this, the latter half of 1999, bandits have armed themselves with superior weaponry and are now said to be outfitted in ski-masks and bullet-proof vests.

According to a Police statement earlier this month, gangs either rent or purchase vehicles to carry out the robberies.

They also possess accurate intelligence and an unerring sense of timing, as demonstrated in the Regent Street Cambio robbery last July. Within minutes of the cash being delivered to the business place in the morning, the heavily armed bandits arrived and began a 15-minute reign of terror that had City Hall Police personnel across the road diving for cover and bawling in fear. One female Constable had her elbow shattered by gunshot.

Yesterday's America Street robbery that also had persons diving for cover and cowering in their cars was different from other robberies in the sense that plainclothes policemen were around and challenged the shooters. Police also gave chase when the bandits took off and headed south. One theory advanced is that the traffic on the East Bank Public Road caused the robbery vehicle to be delayed and this in turn kept them in full view of the Police for long moments on end.

We wish to commend the Police and the Guyana Defence Force on their brave efforts to apprehend these criminals who have caused citizens many sleepless nights and sorrow. We also hope that there is a speedy end of the drama and that the lives of the innocent will be spared.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples