Crime machine well financed Editorial
Stabroek News
October 7, 2002

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Last week's kidnapping and subsequent release of Sheriff Street businessman, Kamal Seebarran was another disturbing episode in this continuing onslaught of crime. Though this was the third kidnapping in the months of mayhem since February 23, the manner in which this abduction was committed and handled bespeaks of a well-managed crime entity. The victim was seized in broad daylight from the always very busy Sheriff Street by four men in bulletproof vests and whisked away without the joint police/army operation having the slightest inkling of where he had been taken. Negotiations were apparently conducted outside of the ambit of the police force and from reports received a hefty ransom was paid to the abductors. The payment of ransom is in itself a worrying sign and is only likely to embolden the criminals behind the kidnapping.

There are many features of the ongoing crime wave for every citizen to worry over and for the government and its security apparatus to provide the answers. Here are two of them.

Up to now, despite seven months of trying, the police and army have been unable to crack the code of silence that is protecting the criminals who have been terrorising the country. There have been isolated victories such as the charging of four men over the killing of two taxi drivers. However, the security services have come nowhere near to unravelling the web of safe houses, controllers, suppliers and organisers connected to the larger group of men who raided Rose Hall and conducted similar operations in other parts of the country. It has not been able to ambush them. It has mainly come into contact with these men during chance firefights most often won by the criminals.

The basic problem is that the police/army seem unable to glean adequate, accurate intelligence on the criminal machine. It is a dilemma that has been pointed out in many expert assessments of the local police force but also by the ordinary man in the street. Not only have sound policing methods fallen apart, the police have also squandered the ability to gain intelligence information by decades of heavy-handed treatment of citizens in areas where they now desperately need their help. Seven months on, one would have expected that the police - and the army for that matter - would have been able to activate intelligence assets in Buxton and other places on the East Coast who would have been able to supply critical information. This has not materialised and the attack by gunmen on the Chester family in Friendship was another setback and a warning to others who simply do their civic duty by pointing out right from wrong. The police and army were unable to protect the Chesters from being so savagely attacked.

Though the police and army say they have stepped up operations and improved communications, that is cold comfort to the citizens of the country. Citizens will not be satisfied with the army and police simply intensifying patrols on the east coast. That will not solve the problem. Those who orchestrated the wave of terror will simply sit back and bide their time before making a well planned strike on a carefully chosen target. They will monitor both the police and army looking for chinks in their collective armour and then strike again. The police/army have to pay more attention to cultivating intelligence resources. Regaining the confidence of communities like Buxton won't be straightforward but a campaign has to be mounted to convince the residents of that village that they cannot lie silent while the rest of the country is being held hostage.

Another quandary facing the police/army is the lavishly financed operations of the criminals. Countless millions have been seized from hapless householders and businesses. The last kidnapping is also thought to have brought in a large sum. A significant portion of this money is no doubt being ploughed back into the funding other crimes. In other words, the rampage of the criminals has become a self-sustaining enterprise. Some of the money is undoubtedly being spread around in host communities like Buxton while the rest is funnelled to organisers and for payoffs to others in return for their silence.

If this pipeline isn't turned off, the crime cartel will be able to continue conducting its depredations with impunity. More guns and ammunition will flow to their sides through our porous borders and there is the danger that more deadly weapons will begin to surface here and the criminals will pay good money for mercenaries to join their ranks. How will the police/army be able to respond to this? The police need to put a financial intelligence team to work to trace the pathway of the huge amounts of money that have been stolen. The criminals, hopefully, are not using established accounts in the banking system. They are more likely operating on a cash basis to finance their operations. Large sums are also probably flowing to those who have organisational roles. The point is that the police and the army have to wage the battle on many fronts not only on the borders of Buxton. In which directions have the millions of dollars in cash and jewellery stolen been doled out? Do the police and army have any idea? If they don't they'd better get to it. The experience with Linden London should have been sufficient warning. He reportedly amassed millions from his escapades but even after his death the police seem to have no inkling of what became of his ill-gotten wealth. They must decipher this mystery if they are to come close at all to breaking the hold that the criminals now have over the country.