Concerns in the upsurge of criminal activities By Dr Prem Misir
Guyana Chronicle
June 10, 2002

Related Links: Articles on crime
Letters Menu Archival Menu

SOME political elements in Guyana have now evolved into the realm of
criminality. The result has been an upsurge in criminal activities,
driven through terroristic behaviour. Terrorism is the application of
intimidation, fear, and violence to achieve political ends. What
political ends? The answer is really the process of terrorism being used by some political elements in their attempt to bring down the People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government, democratically elected in a free, open, and transparent election in 2001. We want to review some of the concerns in the fight against this new crime wave because of its impact on the Guyanese people and eventually political stability.

Political Link to Criminality
Daily political challenges to democracy, manifested through terroristic
behavior, are the order of the day in Guyana. This challenge represents
our first concern. These challenges are in unison with criminality that
recently has induced an unholy upsurge in criminal activities. In order
to sustain these challenges, the relevant political elements give the
society a periodic dose of 'intimidation transfusion' to create terror
in the hearts of innocent Guyanese. This political link to criminal
behaviour is not only the condition that accelerates the crime wave, but this condition motivates and remotivates criminals to believe that a political comfort zone exists to provide the necessary refuge for them when appropriate.

The new political link to criminality has to be addressed on two fronts: need to provide for legislation that will enable easier prosecutions of the relevant political elements; and to link up with international law enforcement mechanisms, conventions, agreements, and instruments for detection, apprehension, and prosecution of terroristic elements.

Through its signing of the Inter-American Convention Against Terrorism

at the Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly Meeting in Barbados last week, Guyana now can access external support to address terrorism. Guyana, also, could access support to detect, apprehend, and prosecute terrorists, through the United Nations Security Council resolutions, conventions, and international agreements.

Serious Crimes
The Guyana Police Force (GPF) has not successfully eliminated crimes against the person and crimes against property, and therefore, these crimes remain a concern. However, it must be noted that the GPF has managed to reduce the prevalence of a few categories of crime over the last few years. Further, the PPP/C Administration, on average, has solid results in combating crime compared to the 1985 through 1992 period. The PPP/C Government also has been providing higher capital expenditures for both the GPF and the Guyana Defense Force (GDF) than its predecessor.

These higher budgetary provisions did impact the crime rate downwardly in the PPP/C years. The following Table provides a sense of the problem of serious crimes over the years 1974 through 2000.

Year Total Murder Man Slaughter Wounding with Intent Burglary and

Breaking Offences Larceny Arson Rape Other

1974 3735 62 5 318 1702 1248 37 157 102

1975 4018 60 - 378 1761 1427 59 143 112

1976 4792 75 4 102 2420 1816 44 103 124

1977 5652 80 6 315 2541 2298 49 110 164

1978 5673 92 6 465 2307 2369 22 95 114

1979 6248 92 2 476 2561 2662 50 113 110

1980 6055 108 9 171 2249 2907 61 101 115

1981 5875 103 5 196 2235 2919 22 111 128

1982 6049 114 7 186 2384 3055 72 94 135

1983 6466 127 16 221 3059 2756 13 86 162

1984 7173 114 9 358 3431 3016 11 61 111

1985 6349 132 6 707 2770 2419 3 100 112

1986 4730 75 8 601 2971 830 8 102 69

1987 4700 89 14 297 3249 727 7 137 93

1988 5244 89 11 232 3912 803 19 73 92

1989 5907 99 7 223 4582 761 11 105 85

1990 4182 90 24 171 3222 506 8 82 79

1991 7972 192 25 309 5787 1377 13 154 115

1992 5792 105 20 682 3674 1107 8 111 85

1993 6624 117 15 331 4825 1112 8 174 60

1994 5188 108 29 254 3912 583 29 111 85

1995 3425 109 31 246 2304 508 10 124 93

1996 3676 88 10 247 2425 572 15 119 200

1997 3233 87 12 238 2215 483 3 123 72

1998 4423 113 7 242 3337 562 4 105 53

1999 3905 91 10 206 2823 585 1 123 66

2000 4149 74 21 154 3186 524 2 117 71

Source: Criminal Investigation Department.
In the years 1985 through 1992, an average of 5609 reports of serious
crimes per year was made, while for the period 1993 through 2000, there was an average of 4328. An average of 109 murders per year was committed between 1985 through 1992, while the average for 1993 through 2000 was 98. Today, the crime rate for several categories of crime has been reduced, except for execution-style killings over the last few years.

The new political link with criminality with the capacity to sustain the current upsurge in crime, however, requires a different approach that demands a comprehensive security package and a review of the existing criminal legislation. The President responded last Friday at a State House Media Conference with a menu of comprehensive security measures that will arrest the crime wave.

The Media
Some media have a culture of hyping images and events through focusing on unusual events. So only the most dramatic illustrations of crime are brought to the people's attention. People then develop the perception that such things as violent crimes or drug trafficking are increasing when they really are not. Currently, the media in Guyana focus intensively on killings, aggravated assault, and rape. But the crimes, such as, theft, burglary and breaking offences, and larceny, experienced most by the general public, do not receive adequate media attention, thereby reinforcing the perception that only violent crimes are increasing throughout Guyana. This type of media bias also is a concern that has to be addressed.

US Criminal Deportees
Another area of concern in the battle against crime is criminal deportees. Let's examine the source of the US criminal deportation. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRAIRA) of the US signed into law by President Clinton on September 30, 1996, introduced sweeping changes in immigration policy since the 1920s. The IIRAIRA Criminal deportees from the US to Guyana and the Caribbean have been convicted of aggravated felonies. There are two types of aggravated felonies - category crimes and sentence crimes. Category crimes are seen as aggravated felonies regardless of the sentence involved. Sentence crimes refer to those aggravated felonies that necessitate an imposed sentence of at least one year. Some specific crimes of violence have been used as a basis for deportation. Crime of violence - this type of crime is an offense that involves the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force, or any other offense that is a felony involving a substantial of physical force against the person or property may be utilized.

Crimes of violence are murder, physical assaults, drug trafficking
crime, and illicit trafficking in firearms or destructive devices. Other crimes of violence considered aggravated felonies are felony drunk driving; aggravated driving under the influence; arson; involuntary manslaughter; criminal contempt; criminally negligent child abuse; sexual abuse of a minor; and statutory rape. These are all deportable offences for both legal permanent residents (Green Card Holders) and illegal immigrants.

Criminal deportees from North America have been a factor among other
factors in the new crime wave in Guyana and the Caribbean. Indeed,
criminal deportees have been intensively socialized in the criminal
fields in the US. These deportees are in full possession of their US
criminal tool kit. Indeed, their criminal training in a developed
society gives them an advantage in the pursuit of criminal activities
over Guyana's local petty home-grown criminals.
Griffith (2000) pointed out that Guyana is confident that criminal
deportees have produced an upward change in crime trends. In fact, Nolan and Rosales (1998) noted that a large number of deportees are hard-core criminals, and their return to their home countries has contributed to gang violence and to increased drug-trafficking in the region. Taylor and Aleinikoff (1998) indicated that foreign diplomats report that deportees is the main reason for penetratingly rising crime rates in the Caribbean and Central America. An official at the daily Gleaner said that "the island suffered one of its bloodiest years in 1996 in part because of the return of dangerous criminals. The 925 people murdered topped the 889 people killed in 1980 during the island's worst election year" (1999).

Deportees with such criminal backgrounds who are posted back to Guyana and the Caribbean invariably will continue with the lifestyles learnt in the US. The deportees' criminal activities in Guyana have not
comprehensively been presented to the public. Clearly, a network of
relationships grounded in criminal behavior exists among some deportees. Network rather than individually-produced crimes tend to have greater sustainability and productivity, and therefore, the network factor must be injected in any crime-fighting tactics and strategy.

Race Used to Explain Crime
Some people in search of solutions to the crime wave continuously use
the race card as an explanatory factor when it really is applied as a
camouflage for their own political ends. The application of the race
card in explaining crime represents another concern in the fight against
crime. The multiethnic nature of the Guyana society almost temptingly
induces an individual to invariably use race as the explanatory or
predictor variable of crime. The evidentiary basis for attributing the
race factor to explain crime has to do with an oversimplified
interpretation of the arithmetic on the number of East Indians and

Africans robbed, killed, or otherwise victimized. It may very well be,
indeed, that Africans have victimized East Indians more so than East
Indians have victimized Africans in Guyana, or vice versa. What dilutes
this oversimplified interpretation, however, is that this ethnic
victimization trend also was a characteristic feature in the colonial
era. In addition, the current crime wave shows a substantial 'ethnic
mix' of the victims. If this is the case, can we then still say that the
'ethnic' interpretation of East Indian/African killings is reliable and
valid? The answer must be in the negative. It may be that it is
necessary but not sufficient to explain or predict East Indian or

African killings. It may very well be that these regular ethnic killings
may eventually evolve into the race card as the predictor (causal)
factor for crime. Currently, there is no reliable and valid evidence to
support the notion that race/ethnicity is the cause of the recent
killings. Keep in mind the political link to criminality and the
desperate and illegal efforts by some of these political elements to
bring down the democratically-elected Government. This political link to
criminal lawlessness is, indeed, one of several factors that explain the
upsurge in criminal activities.

Organized Crime
Again, the many execution-style killings over the last few years cannot

only be explained through race/ethnicity. Some may be targeted murders in the killing fields that signal the increasing presence of organized crime. This is another area of concern in the recent rise in

criminality. Organized crime is bigger than the local police or military. Organized crime has global roots. Organized crime is the work of a group that controls relations between criminal enterprises engaged in narcotics trafficking, prostitution, gambling, racketeering, fraud,
and the infiltration of authentic business. It distributes territory, fixes prices for illegal goods and services, and would even perform the
arbitrator's role in internal disputes. We must understand, too, that
the operations of organized crime are increasingly global, especially in the area of drug trafficking and money laundering.

Attempts to curb the illegal drug trade have shown that these criminal
organizations may very well have partnerships with similar type of
criminal organizations in other countries, or may be a part of global
crime cartels. Not long ago, the fact that the largest cocaine bust in
Guyana, 6,940 pounds, aboard MV Danielsen demonstrated the immense technical attention paid to concealing this illicit drug, indicates that Guyana is a major transshipment route for the international drug trade.

Some execution-style killings are generally selective and targeted and
must be understood within the context of global crime cartels. To limit
the explanation of these serious violent crimes to the race factor
demonstrates minimum understanding of targeted killings and the global roots of crime, and would incorrectly reorient the local criminal
justice system on to a path that de-monitors organized crime. In a small society as Guyana, organized crime can be quite visible, as seen in some recent gruesome killings. The race card will not work here, as it will lead us in the wrong direction in the pursuit of solutions to the increasing spate of crime.

If Guyanese believe that criminalization is limited to the racial scope
and racial disposition of crime in Guyana, then they are allowing the
violent cancerous criminalization to go unchecked. This all-pervasive
criminalization is not tinged by race but by the self-perpetuating
conspiracy that functions for profit and power, and that endeavors to
obtain immunity from the law through fear, corruption, and murder.
It is this ubiquitous criminalization, addressing the areas of concern
herein outlined, that the criminal justice system in Guyana needs to
address. The Guyana criminal justice system has to be linked globally,
and for starters with CARICOM. The international lens is now needed to
focus on crime that today is linked to, political elements manifested
through terroristic behaviour, and to organized crime with global roots.