Plan needed to take back the villages Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
August 29, 2002

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THE continued escalation of crime in the country remains a source of deep concern to the citizens of the land.

Hardly a day goes by that we do not read about a serious incident involving the use of firearms.

On Tuesday night, for example, a young Policeman visiting his girlfriend in the Buxton area was mercilessly gunned down. That same night it was reported that a series of robberies took place in other villages on the East Coast Demerara.

The entire criminal fraternity - from the armed and dangerous to the petty robber - is now cashing in on the situation, thereby compounding the problem for the already heavily stretched Guyana Police Force.

Never before has the country seen such a rapid increase in armed robberies, particularly those involving the use of excessively heavy arms. It is as if some master plan concocted in the underworld is being implemented with alarming and consistent success. There is also reason to suspect that some of these attacks are all part of a plan to force a political solution on the country.

The law enforcement agencies have so far been unable to get on top of the situation and their task is made much more difficult in that they have to now look out for themselves. Since April of this year, nine police officers have been gunned down, most of them in the line of duty.

In addition, last Saturday a senior officer from the country's premier anti- narcotics unit was gunned down in the troubled village of Buxton. His death, along with the deaths of nine Police ranks, point to a plan by criminals to dismantle the system of law and order in our country.

If these attacks are allowed to succeed they could eventually spread to other sections of the justice system, as is so well known in countries like Colombia.

Increasingly resources are being pumped into the Guyana Police Force, but the benefits will not necessarily bring short-term relief. The Police are presently sourcing protective gear to allow them to go into situations of danger with greater assurance over their safety.

Ridding the country of this violent crime wave will take time but in the interim there are measures needed to boost the confidence and crime fighting capabilities of the Guyana Police Force. Some of these are contained in proposals submitted to the public consultation on crime held last week by the Government and which is expected to continue in other parts of the country.

One proposal, which needs immediate implementation, is ensuring greater confidentiality of information received by the force. Studies undertaken by experts from overseas have also pointed to much needed reforms, geared to releasing additional manpower for policing work.

For example, it was found that a number of trained ranks are involved in basically non-policing functions such as immigration, administration, and vehicle fitness certification. The political directorate should immediately look at these areas to see whether they can be contracted out to professionals, thereby freeing the Police from these functions.

Policing is supposed to be everybody's business. Yet the attitude of many is to assume that it is the force's responsibility alone.

It is not. Members of society need to play their part in supporting the work of the Guyana Police Force.

Unfortunately, there are elements that are guilty of launching almost daily attacks on the professionalism of the Police Force. This can have a demoralising effect on the force.

Criticism of the work of our Police will be welcome once it is constructive. But criticism aimed at getting back at the Police Force because of their failure to capitulate to public terror during the election protests is destructive.

We have seen where the Police have been so demonised in one village on the East Coast that they find it difficult to go there to investigate incidents.

The best of reforms within the force will however need to be accompanied by an aggressive plan to combat these deadly criminals. What we need is a plan to take back our villages, through proactive rather than reactive responses.

The criminals are well entrenched, heavily armed and are receiving effective and coordinated support.

The hand of the law is, however, long and as so many have found out over the years, the law eventually catches up with you.

However, from the way things are going in Guyana, the law has a lot of catching up to do.