Army, Police launch land, sea, air operations criminals in `Turn the Key' exercise By Neil Marks
Guyana Chronicle
June 7, 2002

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`These operations have just started and are likely to be intensified and sustained, evolving into more focused operations, such as cordons and searches, directed against specific buildings...' - Lt. Col. Andrew Pompey

THE Guyana Defence Force (GDF) and the Guyana Police Force have launched land, air and sea operations expected to result in "a reduction or a marked reduction in crime and the arrest and prosecution of members of the gang that are alleged to be involved in...criminal activities", Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Pompey announced yesterday.

Code-named `Turn the Key', the joint exercise stems from "the unacceptable increase in violent crimes and persistent reports that these crimes are being perpetrated by persons seen dressed in military type kit, including helmets", Pompey told reporters at Army Headquarters, Camp Ayanganna, Georgetown.

As of 16:30 hrs yesterday, soldiers went into confinement in preparation for the operations that will be "intensified and sustained", he said.

He said, "specific operations have been mounted, including intensified patrols, in the areas south of coastal villages, control points and roadblocks along the coastal and embankment roads".

However, exercise `Turn the Key' will not be confined to the East Coast.

"Our operations have always been premised on intelligence. Wherever our intelligence directs us, our operations will follow", he said.

"These operations have just started and are likely to be intensified and sustained, evolving into more focused operations, such as cordons and searches, directed against specific buildings as the targeted information is developed."

Last weekend, the Army set up collection points on the East Coast, allowing persons with military kit (uniform) and equipment to voluntarily return these. Pompey said this yielded very low results.

The Army is urging members of the travelling public to cooperate in coming forward with any information they may have of persons who have military type kit.

Pompey said residents along the East Coast should not be alarmed by the presence of "armed troops or heli-borne operations".

He said coastal fishermen are similarly being notified of "the Coast Guard raiders" in Guyana's near coastal waters.

Pompey added that there could be no definitive word on whether or not criminals responsible for the rise in crime are in the backlands of the East Coast, as Army patrols from Lusignan to Enmore have been "enlarged".

The justification for the exercise is the "unacceptable upsurge in crime" and "the fact that criminals have been reportedly seen wearing military type uniforms", he emphasised.

While `Turn the Key' is a joint Army/Police exercise, he said that no "inter-mixing" of troops or responsibilities is envisaged.

"Over the years, the (GDF) and the Police have worked side by side in operations along the coast, and there are specific procedures and protocols that are shared on these operations", he noted.

Asked about the use of force during the operations, Pompey said their "actions are guided by the Chief-of-Staff's orders" that detail the exact nature of their engagement.

He said soldiers are "briefed and rehearsed" on the different procedures that should be followed in any exercise.

On Wednesday, Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon said that President Bharrat Jagdeo is to announce "very soon" a "menu of measures" to deal with the upsurge in crime.

The President met the top brass of the Guyana Police Force and the Guyana Defence Force on Tuesday to discuss his proposals and to seek their interventions, Luncheon said at his weekly post-Cabinet press briefing.

The Office of the President said the meeting with the Police Officers "examined and explored a number of additional initiatives to deal with the current and changing crime situation in Guyana and the Caribbean in the short and medium terms."

Cabinet at its Tuesday statutory session "discussed in great detail the evolving crime situation and the menu of measures that is proposed by the President", Luncheon told reporters.

He said that the Cabinet review of the proposed plan of action thrown out by the President took place in the context of his (the President's) commitment to an "all out campaign against crime in Guyana".