A national crime prevention strategy must satisfy several criteria
Stabroek News
April 2, 2002

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Dear Editor,

Finally, finally, I am beginning to see an awareness (more like an awakening) among the volume of contributors to your letter columns, of the dilemma of crime and punishment in Guyana. Your columns (and editorial) on Monday March 25, 2002 amply represent this development. This must be considered only as a start of the necessary dialogue that ultimately creates a comprehensive national crime prevention strategy. I do however view it as rather unfortunate that the President would (at a forum no larger than the annual Police Officers conference) lose sight of this larger picture and allow his energies to be focused on piecemeal matters (though important) such as public relations and equipment provisioning. I would hope that he realizes that a national strategy is more involved, far-reaching, and organized.

A national crime prevention strategy must necessarily satisfy several criteria:

(a) The establishment of a comprehensive policy framework which will enable government to address crime in a coordinated and focused manner, which draws on the resources of all government agencies, as well as civil society.

(b) The promotion of a shared understanding and common vision of how the nation is going to tackle crime. This vision should also inform and stimulate initiatives at county and regional levels.

(c) The development of a set of national programs that serve to kick-start and focus the efforts of various government departments in delivering quality service aimed at solving the problems leading to high crime levels.

(d) The maximization of civil society's participation in mobilizing and sustaining crime prevention initiatives.

(e) Creation of a dedicated and integrated crime prevention capacity which can conduct ongoing research and evaluation of departmental and public campaigns as well as facilitating effective crime prevention programs at county and regional levels.

It is important to recognize that there is no single cause of crime in Guyana. The search for single causes will merely lead to simplistic and therefore ineffective solutions. At the same time, different types of crime have different root causes, and hence require different approaches to prevention. Essentially therefore, a prioritization of crimes should be arrived at in order to better focus resources.

The national crime prevention strategy should develop a four-pronged approach dealing with the following:

(a) The Criminal Justice Process. This should aim to make the criminal justice system more efficient and effective. It must provide a sure and clear deterrent for criminals and reduce the risks of re-offending.

(b) Reducing Crime Through Environmental Design. This focuses on designing systems to reduce opportunity for crime and increase the ease of detection and identification of criminals.

(c) Public Values and Education. These concern initiatives aimed at changing the way communities react to crime and violence. It involves programs that utilize public education and information in facilitating meaningful citizen participation in crime prevention.

(d) Trans-National Crime. Here, programs aim at improving the controls over cross border traffic related to crime and reducing the refuge the country offers to international criminal syndicates (a quite real and present danger).

But this is merely a start that has to be followed by a process of decentralizing several functions which now encumber the Guyana Police Force and thereby limit its effectiveness and efficiency. As I have indicated in the past (and despite the fact that I had promised to move away from this topic) the GPF has to be reshaped into an agency that is focused on public safety in the following four specific semi-autonomous areas:

a.. Investigations
b.. Proactive, Consistent Patrolling
c.. Road Safety
d.. Swift and coordinated criminal justice.
Let us hope that the distraction from other developmental matters, that this present crime wave has created, serves to bring into clearer focus the need to ensure an orderly society as a basis for progress.

Yours faithfully,
Merrill Hyman Sr.