Security heightened at police stations in city
Stabroek News
June 1, 2002

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The police seemed to be on heightened alert yesterday following Thursday night's attack at the Alberttown Police Station which left one rank dead and another injured.

Pandemonium broke out at the precinct when groups of men, in two white cars, showered the station with bullets, killing Constable Andy Atwell in the process. In the aftermath of the latest and most brazen attack by bandits, stricter security measures were observed yesterday at the various police stations around the city.

All the main entrances to the precincts were padlocked and guarded. But at the Alberttown Station, Stabroek News observed that barricades were placed across the Fourth and Albert streets junction, where the precinct stands. Armed ranks wearing bulletproof vests were at the ready around the station.

Several police ranks who spoke to Stabroek News yesterday expressed mixed views on the situation. One rank, although arguing that the force was doing everything to contain crime, opined that some policemen were aggravating the situation by the way they conducted certain investigations and, also, by the way they treated suspects.

"They [the police] would go to homes and harass the occupants," the policeman complained. He added that some ranks, too, are "reluctant" to confront the rampaging bandits because the criminals seemed to be better armed.

"Fifty per cent of them are fearful and the other 50 [percent] are" disgruntled, another rank commented yesterday, adding, "You pay us good and give us the weapons and we can combat the situation effectively."

That member of the force complained that often they had to turn in their weapons, which gave the criminals an advantage. He said the force had the equipment to match the criminals', but the members did not always have ready access to these. It was his opinion that the ranks at Alberttown were caught off-guard.

"They did not return fire. They got caught by surprise. My opinion is that when you enter the police force, you are supposed to be fully trained... They don't give ranks guns to carry home and this puts us at risk because the criminals are always more armed... These people [the criminals] eyes pass the police... they are going to storm a station and kill cops?" the rank stated irately.

But one senior policeman told this newspaper that a larger number of people, while they were concerned about what was happening in the country, recognised that the force was trying its best.

Early on the morning of the attack, two cars were hijacked and a gold Carina used in two previous robberies was abandoned. This led some members of the public to speculate that "something big is going down." As expected, the cars were used in the assault on the station so the question being asked is why was the force not more prepared on Thursday night?

Stabroek News understands that at the time of the siege, not more than five ranks were on duty. One policeman lamented that given the situation, each precinct should have a fully armed squad of men, ready for any eventuality.

Early Thursday morning, bandits hijacked two cars, one of which belonged to a former policeman. The first attack occurred at about 0545 hrs in Craig Street, Campbellville, and the second, 15 minutes later in Sophia.

Cuthbert Europe, the former policeman, told this newspaper that he was parking his car, a white Carina, PGG 7801, when a gold car drove up alongside him, and two men armed with guns disembarked, ordered him to get out of his car, hand over the keys and "run!". The 38-year-old Europe said he complied and the men sped away in his vehicle, in the direction of Sheriff Street, with the gold car in tow.

Likewise, Legem taxi driver Andre Matthews reported that while heading into the Sophia area, he saw two cars across the road blocking his path. Just as they did to Europe, the bandits ordered Matthews to hand over the car to them. They left the gold Carina behind. The same gold car was used during two robberies on May 20. (Kim Lucas)