Special crime crack force to be set up
-- $100M released to Police Force to boost resources Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
June 8, 2002

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`Tackling the crime situation is the Government's number one priority, at this time' - President Bharrat Jagdeo

PRESIDENT Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday called on Guyanese of all walks of life to unequivocally condemn crime, as he announced additional measures aimed at tackling the situation which he said is the Government's "number one" priority.

Establishment of a special crime crack force and the immediate release of $100M to the Police Force to improve its weaponry and other aspects were among the new initiatives the President outlined at a news conference at State House.

He said too that a sum of $1M will be provided immediately to each of the families of the five law enforcement officers killed in the recent crime wave.

Some of the measures will have an immediate impact on the situation, while others will prepare the country's security forces for the medium term, Mr. Jagdeo said.

The nine initiatives were discussed and agreed on after President Jagdeo had individual meetings with Cabinet, the Commissioner of Police and his senior staff, the Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force and senior officers.

The President said the setting up of a special "crime crack force" along the lines of a SWOT (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) team, will complement existing units.

The "crack force" will comprise large enough groups of specially trained and well-provided-for armed officers and ranks, who will respond mainly to the new forms of criminal activities and acts of domestic terrorism, currently gripping the society, he said.

The new unit will not replace the Police Special Target Squad but complement its operations, the Head of State explained, adding that there would be international help in putting the team in place.

He said details about the recruitment of staff for the unit and the training are still to be finalised.

The President said there has been an immediate release of $100M to the Police Force to improve its weaponry, protective equipment and gear, transportation and communication facilities.

The money is in addition to the 2002 allocation for the Police in the National Budget and an identical sum will be allocated in 2003 and 2004, to upgrade weaponry and other equipment, he told reporters.

The Ministry of Finance has already been directed to make any necessary adjustments in this year's capital programme to respond to this national priority, the President said.

He said there will also be a comprehensive reform of the Intelligence sector to strengthen intelligence gathering to support the fight against crime, narco-trafficking and threats to internal security.

This will be accompanied by improvements in the investigative capacity of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID).

A specialised training centre where Police ranks and other law enforcement officers will be exposed, on a continuous basis, to modern anti-crime tactics and methods, especially on strategies, tactics and leadership is to be established.

In particular, training in the use of modern weapons will now be a feature of the standard training programme for all law enforcement personnel, the President said.

He announced that there will be a complete review of the existing legislation on crime, with the aim of introducing new laws and toughening the existing penalties for criminal activities, and to make prosecution and conviction of criminals easier.

Community Policing Groups would benefit immediately from the creation of a dedicated unit within the Office of the Commissioner of Police, for which adequate funding would be provided for training, equipment and other resources, he said.

According to the President:

** Legislation would be introduced to provide for closer monitoring of certain categories of deportees.

** The issuance of gun licences to qualified citizens will be expedited, especially for the business community.

** An enhanced welfare package for law enforcement personnel to provide for occupational risks would be put in place.

And, immediately, $20M will be placed in a fund to be controlled by the Police Force for the dependants of Policemen and women who are killed in encounters with criminals, he said.

Annual allocations would be also made to the fund.

A Task Force will oversee the implementation of the above measures, President Jagdeo added.

Also at the State House news conference were Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), Brigadier Michael Atherly, his deputy Colonel Edward Collins; Commissioner of Police (Acting) Floyd McDonald; Commissioner designate of the Police Force, Winston Felix, Head of the Presidential Secretariat/Secretary to the Defence Board, Dr. Roger Luncheon and Home Affairs Minister, Ronald Gajraj.

The President emphasised, "Tackling the crime situation is the Government's number one priority, at this time", and reminded that the country has witnessed, over the past eight weeks, criminal elements, primarily the February 23rd prison escapees, conducting an escalating campaign of robbery, hijacking and killing of innocent Guyanese.

"More recently, the criminal elements have ambushed Police patrols, attacked a Police station, resulting in the death of more law enforcement personnel.

"These newer tactics have introduced a feature of criminal behaviour that has affected internal security in Guyana.

"These criminal activities have also generated fear and insecurity. Aspects of our day-to-day life, especially that of our business community, have been disrupted.

"I fully understand the anxieties and am deeply concerned about this. That is why no effort is being spared to apprehend the criminals," President Jagdeo declared.

He further pointed out that the measures to be instituted do not and cannot cover the other operational issues and decisions which are being pursued by the country's hard-pressed security forces who are working around-the-clock to respond to the current crime situation.

He said too that none of the initiatives will infringe on the rights of citizens, which are enshrined in the Constitution, noting that he is aware of concerns about the excessive use of force by law enforcement officers.

The President reminded though that the Government "will continue to work with our law enforcement agencies to ensure maximum professional conduct, as they fulfill their responsibility to the people of this country."

"While no single measure or menu of measures can guarantee complete success over crime and criminal activities, I believe, nonetheless that at the national and CARICOM (Caribbean Community) levels certain initiatives can have a positive impact on the situation in the short to medium term," he assured.

On Thursday, a senior Army officer announced the launch of land, sea and air operations in conjunction with the Police, which are expected to result in "a reduction in crime and the arrest and prosecution of members of the gang that are alleged to be involved in criminal activities." (The joint exercise is code-named `Tourniquet' and not `Turn the Key' as was reported yesterday.)

On Thursday afternoon, Compton Cambridge, 27, also called `Nand', who was wanted by the Police in connection with a series of murders and armed robberies, was shot dead in an armed confrontation with a Police patrol at Nabaclis, East Coast Demerara, Police said.