Cops have taken hands-off stance
Worried about traps
Stabroek News
May 1, 2002

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The police have come under severe criticism from some residents of Friendship for not responding to calls about criminal activities in the area, but a police source has said that the law enforcers could not endanger themselves by walking into what might be traps.

Meanwhile, the community is divided. A faction is claiming that there is infighting among villagers on alleged protection being given to the February 23 prison escapees and another faction is denying that there is any infighting. Some are even refusing to acknowledge that there is a problem in relation to heightened tensions in the East Coast Demerara community, claiming that all is well.

What is obvious is that there is a certain amount of tension in a section of the community and some residents there are viewing each other suspiciously. At least two persons told Stabroek News that they had received death threats, one by telephone and one in a face-to-face confrontation. The latter was beaten.

The police appear to be powerless to do anything, because according to some residents, the entire police force now appears to be targeted when initially "only the `Black Clothes' police were the enemies."

Buxton/Friendship has been the scene of clashes between the `Black Clothes' police and some elements within the community due initially to what residents said were police brutality and extra-judicial killings committed on some residents in the community over an extended period of time.

Last Friday evening, a couple of Brush Dam Friendship, Brian Chester and his reputed wife, Dionne Glasgow, were shot, and a young man who witnessed the shooting was beaten with the butt of a gun on Sunday evening and told "to shut his mouth". His life was also threatened. Since these incidents occurred neither the police at Vigilance nor Cove John have visited the area.

When contacted yesterday the Police Public Relations Department told Stabroek News that it was not aware that the police had not visited the area, claiming that whenever reports were made the police would respond. However, the spokesman promised to make some enquiries and give this newspaper a feedback as to why the police had not visited the scene.

A police source told Stabroek News that vehicular traffic to the southern part of Buxton/Friendship was effectively blocked, and it would not be advisable to send policemen on foot in an area deemed hostile to the police. The roads have been either dug-up or blocked with lumber and other materials making them virtually impassable to vehicular traffic.

The source said that because of the volatile situation there might be need to manoeuvre and policemen's lives would be put at risk. He recalled that within a two-week period, two policemen -- Superintendent Leon Fraser and Inspector Harry Kooseram -- were shot dead in the line of duty.

Some residents told this newspaper that the roads were dug to make it impossible for the police to access the area. While some would not say who damaged the roads, others pointed out that they were basically the criminal elements out to wreak havoc. At the moment, they said, that situation was out of control and even respected village and political party leaders, who initially had some control over the elements, no longer held that edge over them.

Several residents spoke with this newspaper over the weekend under the condition of anonymity because they fear retaliation by a gang of criminal elements, which they say is currently patrolling the southern part of the contiguous villages even in broad daylight, and their cohorts about whom they are not sure.

On Saturday the police issued a press release stating that the two armed men who shot the couple were identified as Shawn Brown, one of the five prisoners who escaped from the Georgetown Prison on February 23; and Compton Cambridge, also of Brush Dam, who was wanted in connection with a series of robberies.

However, residents said that Cambridge moved about in broad daylight "with his side [gun]" in full view of the Vigilance Police Station. Yesterday, they said, he had been seen on the Buxton/Friendship Public Road.

In spite of this, one prominent resident in the community told Stabroek News that if people knew "what is good for them they will stop talking." He felt that the police should be doing their jobs instead of getting the residents involved and bringing "bad blood among each other."

On the business of people being informants, some residents felt that the police could not be trusted to treat matters with the confidence required if they were really interested in capturing the escapees and other wanted persons. They claimed that persons who informed the police about the whereabouts of wanted men somehow had their names leaked back to the persons they informed about and their cohorts.

Residents who have been "analysing the situation" for themselves stated that if the persons who shot Brian Chester and his reputed wife and beat the young man who saw the shooting, had wanted to kill them, they would have done so. The residents feel that it was only a warning to them to "shut-up."

At present, rumours surrounding the escapees are rampant. Only Andrew Douglas was a Buxtonian, but it is felt that the escapees are paying persons for shelter and to provide them with sustenance from within the community.