Report on hunt for escapees needed
Stabroek News
March 6, 2002

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On Saturday, February 23, five armed prisoners broke out of the Camp Street jail, killing one prison officer and critically wounding another in the process. They hijacked a car in the vicinity of the prison, and after crashing it at the Ruimveldt well, hijacked another one, which they abandoned in Dennis Street, Sophia.

The following night, two men on a motorcycle seized a car in Bel Air Park, whose owner they subsequently released in Cummings Lodge. The escapees used this car when robbing two Festival City security guards of their guns a few hours later, and when committing a drive-by shooting which targeted the Ruimveldt police outpost. Since then, nothing more has been heard of them.

Considering that the men are armed, dangerous, and have been on the loose for almost a week and a half, the public would like to know - in very general terms - what measures are being taken in relation to their recapture. It is true that the Guyana Police Force (GPF) issued photographs and descriptions of the men on the day of the escape, information which was repeated in an advertisement placed in the press on March 3. Other than that, however, the last official release on this subject came from the Guyana Information Agency on the afternoon of February 24, when citizens were told that the GPF had launched "a national manhunt around-the-clock," and that law enforcement officials in neighbouring territories had been alerted.

Of course the public cannot be told the specific details of any manhunt, but in circumstances such as these, citizens need to be assured that something meaningful is being done to guarantee their safety. For example, do the police believe the men are still in the jurisdiction, or have they fled the country? If they believe that they are still in the country, is there any substance to the rumours circulating in the city that the escapees have gone to ground in Georgetown and/or its environs?

Assuming the five are in Guyana, just how are they supporting themselves, since so far there have been no reports of any major cash robberies associated with them? Do the police think the group is still together, or have they split up?

In our edition yesterday we reported Police Public Relations Officer, Assistant Superintendent David Ramnarine as saying that the search parties for the men included ranks of the regular force as well as the Target Special Squad. Do the authorities consider that the manpower they have deployed to hunt for the escapees is sufficient for the task? Is there any case for making it a joint services operation, and if not, why not? In brief, have the police made any progress at all since February 23?

We have had prison breaks before in Guyana, but none associated with such violence. Not surprisingly, therefore, the public is anxious. Yet the Minister of Home Affairs to date has had nothing to say, and the Commissioner of Police (ag) has had nothing to say. Where are they? We want to hear their voices. We need a progress report.