Gajraj vows to achieve `crime free society'

Stabroek News
August 21, 1999

Minister of Home Affairs, Ronald Gajraj, on Thursday expressed his government's support for community policing groups (CPGs) and vowed that with their help "we will achieve a crime free society."

At a meeting with CPGs from Vreed-en-Hoop, La Grange and Wales at Nismes, West Bank Demerara, the minister acknowledged the sacrifices in time and resources by the volunteers to create some sense of safety for people to relax and enjoy the benefits of their properties.

He made it known that policing groups were not a substitute for an overburdened, under resourced police force but rather a supplement which when combined is "a joint force with a common purpose."

Touching on the sensitive topic of the issuance of firearm licences to individuals, he said his ministry's main concern was that people posing as business owners would use or rent out newly licenced firearms for nefarious activities. To this end he has proposed the setting up of community committees that would review an individual's application. Members would be chosen from the area's policing group, the business community, the farming community,the regional office, and the local police force. Copies of their recommendations would be sent to the Commissioner of Police and to his ministry.

Gajraj said he had no reservations about issuing licences on a collective basis to CPGs as he realizes that their purpose is to defend the citizenry. He advised those present that in the event of a threat they would be well within their rights to deal with that threat in whatever way possible, describing it as a "kill or be killed" situation. The minister suggested that there should be some amount of training for groups in the use of firearms and also in areas of conducting searches of the person and of homes. There are also legal issues of such searches that need to be illuminated.

Assistant Commissioner Jameer in charge of 'D' division noted that in the West Bank/West Coast region serious crime had declined by 45% and others by 52% with the most common crime being breaking and entry and larceny. He attributed the declines to the strength of the 31 community policing groups operating in the areas.

Jameer also acknowledged the CPGs' efforts in traffic control through roadblocks and patrols for which he would be willing to provide petrol.

Gajraj was happy to report that the region was one of the lowest in reported crimes but warned about complacency, urging members to hold fund raisers to provide any equipment they might need. The meeting was part of a day-long tour of police stations on the West Bank Demerara.

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