Government coping with a new criminality by Prem Misir
Guyana Chronicle
September 11, 2002

Related Links: Articles on crime
Letters Menu Archival Menu

PEOPLE are very concerned about the upsurge in crime, and quite rightly so.

Some people have blamed the Government for being unable to cope with this criminality. Some have criticised the Guyana Police Force likewise.

These premature critics also assert that the Police need to end the crime wave and deter crimes.

The Police are not equipped to deter or prevent crimes societal-wide; sufficient research literature on crime prevention by the Police in Guyana is practically non-existent.

Behavioral and social scientists are needed to answer the many questions on what the Police can do to prevent crime. Many of these strategic answers are still to come. So in the meantime, we have to understand the limitations of a 'crime prevention' role for the Police, created by this data void.

Right now, the best function the Police can and are performing is to solve localised incidents of crime, but we cannot expect them to play a societal-wide 'crime-prevention' role, for the reasons already mentioned.

To paraphrase an American Commission's report, it is useful to note that the Police did not initiate and may be unable to end the convulsive changes in society.

The Police do not produce laws that they must enforce, and they do not dispose of the criminals arrested. Apportioning blame laced with political contours is not the way forward in any efforts aimed at stamping out criminal activities. And the people making these erroneous remarks are themselves bankrupt with suggestions for improving the crime situation.

In any case, the first step for crime fighters must involve identifying the nature of the crime. This process of identification incorporates inclusion of a variety of predisposing and contributory variables in the crime-fighting equation.

Some of these variables may be a Regional Crime Connection, a political link to criminality, and the incitement role of the media.

The substantive nature of the crimes seems to suggest a Regional 'Connection,' as some of these crimes may be drug-related and involve deportees. The Caribbean Community (CARICOM), noting the penetrative nature of crime in the region, has initiated attempts to stop the upsurge in crime.

A CARICOM Regional Task Force on Crime and Security was set up at the Heads'

22nd Meeting in Nassau, Bahamas in July 2001. At the Heads' 23rd Meeting in Georgetown, Guyana, in July 2002, the Chairman of this Task Force presented a report.

The Heads having reviewed this report, subsequently, issued a statement a month ago. The statement said, inter alia, that "Recognising that security threats, concerns and challenges in the hemispheric context are multidimensional, the Regional Task Force on Crime and Security sought to find a formula to ensure more effective, preemptive and response measures to the upsurge in crime and threats to security, at the national and regional levels."

CARICOM also in this statement has recognised drug trafficking and deportees, among others, as fundamental causes of crime in the region. Any discussion of some of the execution-style killings in Guyana must make the connection with Guyana as a possible drug transshipment route to North America and Europe.

The CARICOM region's crime situation is not much different from Guyana. And presenting some crime scenarios from the CARICOM region is not intended to provide comfort for Guyanese experiencing this rise in criminality, but to enable Guyanese to understand the Regional Crime Connection.

We know of the current tidal crime wave in Jamaica. But only in 2000, Jamaica experienced close to 1,000 murders. Between 1990 and 1999, there were 7,621 murders in Jamaica.

For the same period, Guyana had 1,100 murders. A Barbados Extended Bulletin in 2001 indicated that Barbados has had an increase in crime over the last five years, and due to the escalating crime rate, the Government developed a 10-point strategy for addressing crime.

A Washington Report on the Hemisphere 18-11 noted Trinidad and Tobago's increasing violent crime rate of which 70 per cent involved drugs. Murders total 99 for Trinidad and Tobago for this year so far.

Police in Curacao confirmed that 28 killings were committed since the beginning of 2002, and most of these were execution-style killings. Curacao has experienced a large number of drug seizures over the last few years.

Clearly, then, a diagnosis of the crime upsurge in Guyana needs to factor in the 'regional' variable, otherwise the solution and prognosis of this criminality will be way out of whack.

Stabroek News, in a recent editorial, chastised the Government for the current sustained crime wave, with no intimation of a Regional or Global Connection or political or media link to the criminality.

In this sense, Stabroek News has failed. It has failed fundamentally to link the substantial criminal activities to regional drug trafficking, money laundering, and racketeering, inter alia; it has failed to observe the global roots of criminality; it has failed to see the local political link to criminality; it has failed to present the considerable efforts exerted by both the Guyana Police Force (GPF) and the Guyana Defence Force (GDF); it has failed to acknowledge the public's assistance rendered to law enforcement personnel; it has failed to understand the active role of the Government in maintaining law and order; and it has failed to acknowledge its own daily diatribe used to undermine public confidence in law enforcement activities.

We now present the possible political link to criminality. Some pieces of information extracted from the print media impose a burden on the People's National Congress Reform (PNC/R), the main Opposition Party, to explain the vortex of turbulence in the society. Some informational pieces now follow:

1. A senior PNC/R central executive member said that it "is in the business of trying to get the government of the day out of office. There is nothing wrong with any statements which say that as an opposition party, we are attempting to remove the government."

2. A national newspaper headline read, "Raphael Trotman had sparked furor when he had declared that the PNC/R should take responsibility for the July

3 invasion of the Office of the President."

3. The 'kith and kin' politics, referring to African ethnicity, was used by the PNC/R Leader at the 1997 election.

4. Jerome Khan, a PNC/R Member of Parliament, cited the case of a senior ranking person of the PNC/R, as suggesting that attacks against East Indians will produce positive outcomes.

5. The statement by the PNC/R of making the country ungovernable still is being utilised.

6. Use of the 'slow fire, more fire' phrase by the PNC/R during the last election campaign.

7. "Shaka lives" and "Five For Freedom" leaflets inciting violence against

Guyanese. The "Shaka lives" pamphlet sees the five bandits as heroes while the "Five For Freedom" leaflet indicates that the bandits have targeted all Government officials, police officers, and their families.

8. There is evidence of a PNC/R electoral candidate for the 2001 election

inciting violence.

9. Information on other aspects of domestic terrorism (see GINA Website).

The media statements have been no different from those of the politicians.
Here are just a few among many others:

1. "Government is trying to run the country by executing Blacks."

2. " that the Government has Indo-Guyanese make-up and is totally

mistaken by trying to run the country by executing Blacks."

3. "Killing of Sgt. Harry Kooseram is racially motivated. It's one for one. It's hit back time..."

4. "There is a planned invasion of Buxton Village."

The informational pieces, produced by opposition politicians, have been regurgitated over the last few months by the electronic media. These as well as the statements emanating from the media and indeed, there are numerous others, would have a relevance in any hearing on the causes of domestic terrorism in Guyana, a hearing analogous to South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

An area of serious concern in the current battle against crime is the gradual inflow of criminal deportees. Let's examine the source of the U.S. criminal deportation.

The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRAIRA) of the U.S. 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 U.S. 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.

Crimes of violence - this type of crime is an offence that involves the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force, or any other offence that is a felony involving a substantial physical force against the person or property may be utilised.

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 socialised in the criminal fields in the U.S.

These deportees are in full possession of their U.S. 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 criminal deportees have produced an upward change in crime trends in Guyana. 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 the return of deportees is the main reason for penetratingly rising crime rates in the Caribbean and Central America. An official at the daily Gleaner newspaper in Jamaica said "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 criminal lifestyles learnt in the U.S. The deportees' criminal activities in Guyana have not comprehensively been presented to the public.

Clearly, a network of relationships grounded in criminal behaviour 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.

The Government has placed crime fighting as its number one priority at this time. The President's menu of security measures, announced in June this year, is being effected. A few of these measures include body armour and protective gear.

The Guyana Police Force shortly will receive training in firearms management and crowd control from the British Metropolitan Police.

Currently, there are Joint Police-Army task forces involved in intelligence gathering and special operations. The Army personnel assist the Police in working the highways, villages and backlands.

The process of Public Consultations on Crime is under way. The results of these consultations will further inform and enhance the strategy and methods of law enforcement. The consultations process should be completed in a month's time.

Police effectiveness is only as good as the public support that it receives.

However, political and media statements have served to undermine public support for the law enforcement personnel. Unfortunately, these statements continue unabated.

Meanwhile, law enforcement agencies now have to reorient their thinking, capacity and methods to addressing an exclusive type of crime grounded in domestic terrorism and drugs.

This type of criminal rejects the approved cultural goals and the institutional rules necessary for advancement, and creates new goals and new procedures.

These unlawful creations are tantamount to rebellion.