Residents picket Albion cops over robbery spree
Murder suspect spotted in several areas

By Daniel DaCosta
Stabroek News
June 4, 2001

Scores of angry Berbicians picketed the Albion Police station on the lower Corentyne last Friday calling for an investigation into the operation of the station and for firearm licences to be issued.

The peaceful protest came in the wake of a spate of violent robberies by armed bandits on the Corentyne over weeks and months. Among the protestors were victims of armed robberies, women, taxi and mini-bus drivers, Albion sugar estate employees, business persons and concerned citizens.

According to one protestor "people are protesting peacefully against attacks by bandits in the area. Before elections there were about fifteen armed robberies on the Corentyne during which men and women were badly beaten. Since elections there have been some sixteen to seventeen robberies including 'kick-down-the-door' attacks. The people are tired of these attacks and the inability of the police to do anything about them."

Several protestors told this newspaper that on more than one occasion they were told by ranks at Albion that only two policemen were on duty when assistance was sought at nights during attacks by armed bandits.

On May 27 armed bandits broke into a home at Fyrish and brutalised and robbed a family of approximately $500,000 in cash and jewellery. Last Thursday night two families were beaten and robbed at Number One village and Fyrish. On Friday night a family at Number 48 village was robbed of approximately $1 million in cash and jewellery. A shotgun was also reportedly taken by the armed bandits.

A number of Albion Estate factory workers withdrew their labour on Friday after one of their colleagues was beaten and robbed on Thursday night. "We are forced to keep vigilante at nights without any assistance from the police and work during the day. It is not fair" one man argued. "It is time the government does something about these armed robberies." According to one hire car driver, last week he went to the Rose Hall police outpost to report a robbery in progress at his mother's home but found no one there. "I saw five policemen, three in uniform at a nearby Chinese restaurant drinking. When I told them about the robbery; they told me they were off duty. During the day policemen can be seen in numbers here, there and everywhere but none are on duty at nights" he told this newspaper. The driver is calling for an investigation into the police in Berbice and for more police ranks to be on duty at nights.

One vigilante group member said he was arrested one night while "keeping watch" with a few others by police ranks at Albion. "We were told that we should not be armed with sticks and cutlasses but there are no police ranks available at nights to patrol or to be with us, so what should we do?" he asked.

During the protest, traffic along the Corentyne highway was periodically obstructed as protesters paraded outside the police station. A number of police ranks and officers were on the scene to ensure the smooth flow of traffic and to monitor the protest. The demonstrators carried placards and chanted slogans such as; "we want justice", "we want guns", "enough is enough" and "we need protection". Some of the placards read: "Police protection - quick action", "we need guns to protect ourselves". "All police at Albion must remove now." "Mr Home Affairs Minister we need firearm licences now" and "this nonsense must stop now."

"B" Division commander, Asst. Commissioner Paul Slowe was expected to meet with a delegation to discuss their concerns at his New Amsterdam office. Stabroek News understands that another protest exercise has been planned for today on the Corentyne.

Meanwhile, the continued presence of murder suspect Mark Harry a.k.a `Jesus' and `Tun' in the region remains a major concern to Berbicians. Several persons have expressed their ire over the police's inability to apprehend Harry who is said to be in the company of three others. Two weeks ago the police reportedly confronted him aback of New Amsterdam and exchanged gunfire for almost two hours but Harry and gang slipped away as night fell. He has been spotted at Rose Hall Town, in New Amsterdam and at Edinburgh on the East Bank. Berbicians have been losing much sleep since he was first sighted in the region. Harry is wanted in connection with the murder on May 9 of fish vendor David Kissoondai in Albouystown, Georgetown.