Is there a training camp for criminals?
Stabroek News
December 9, 2002

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Last Tuesday’s blitzkrieg on Regent Street in which policeman Quincy James was so dastardly murdered left no doubt that the criminal enterprise that has terrorised the country since February 23 is alive and well.

As Jones lay dying, riddled by bullet after bullet, fourteen in all by some accounts, it was also evident that the police are still not properly prepared or outfitted to stand up to this criminal tyranny that threatens the foundations of the country.

Following the deaths of two of the February 23 escapees on October 28 there had been no large-scale robbery, shooting or kidnapping that had become the hallmark of the criminal network until Tuesday’s assault. In probably one of the best executed operations of its kind, the criminals robbed a cambio, murdered the policeman, shot at another and let go a fusillade in Georgetown, leaving the hapless citizens of the city scurrying for cover or cowering in fear wherever they stood. The gunmen then escaped by car, minibus and motor bikes up the East Coast into a zone of safety - most likely Buxton/ Friendship.

Shocked and bewildered by the turn of events, many people were left to ponder what had happened. After all, three of the escapees had died in two previous shooting incidents and several other wanted men had lost their lives in various encounters with the police and the so-called `phantom gang’. Yet, by the police’s admission, 12 to 15 men descended on Regent Street last Tuesday armed with guns and adept at their use. The ubiquitous bullet-proof vests were also in evidence and in a sinister twist, channa bombs, were part of the gunmen’s arsenal and one was hurled into the Alim Shah store. Do 12 to 15 men just suddenly come together one day and say `let’s do Regent Street today’? That is most unlikely. What is more probable is that the same shadowy network that helped spirit the five men out of the Camp Street lock-ups on February 23 and housed, nurtured and indoctrinated them have found new recruits to carry out their criminal plans. The gunmen who shot up Regent Street weren’t born with an innate knowledge of guns and bullets though it is possible that a few of them may have had some type of paramilitary training in one of the disciplined services. Even if that were so, the way they fitted and operated together points quite clearly in the direction of some type of training camp where the criminals get basic instructions on the use of guns, the details of plans are honed and practice drills carried out.

As we had said before in these columns, the gains that the police had made on October 28 when Dale Moore died and several safe houses were raided could be easily surrendered if the police did not take determined action in closing in on known areas of criminal activity and by reaching out to communities like Buxton/Friendship which had been infested by criminals. Indeed, on the night of October 28, reports had come to this newspaper that the remainder of the confederates of Dale Moore/Mark Fraser had gone around the Buxton/Friendship area threatening revenge against those who they believed might have aided the police. There was much anger. That very night a group of persons burnt alive a man in a car who they believed had provided some help in the fight against the criminals. There was therefore clear evidence that the work of the police and army was far from done if the initiative was to be wrested from the criminals. This much was also known by the police and the army.

The signs continued to appear. Householders in Coldingen were attacked several weeks ago and the gunmen fled into Buxton. Hot on their pursuit, the police were then confronted by a group of men who covered the retreat of the robbers. This event pointed to continued initiations and hosting of criminals in this area.

So the ball is now firmly back in the court of the police. How will it respond to this network that can apparently induct cadets into the high-voltage gun raids? The police death toll is now a painful 11 with a heightened risk of further attacks against them. The force can ill afford another performance of the type demonstrated last Tuesday. There was absolutely no excuse for the slow, lacklustre and weak response by the police. Three to four minutes of intense shooting by the bandits, and a mad dash through the city in several cars and up the East Coast in a minibus to safety, gave the police enough time to mount an effective response. It was either that the force was shocked into paralysis or it wanted to avoid an open confrontation with the gunmen. Neither is a comforting scenario. The force failed miserably and the army - whether or not it had been immediately notified of the Regent Street raid - didn’t do any better. The gunmen escaped into an area that falls within the mandate of the army as defined by Operation Tourniquet. The gunmen should have been apprehended.

No one is belittling the task facing the police and the army. It is not an easy one or easily soluble and it has been complicated by the emergence of the phantom gang of gunmen who participated in the killing of Mark Fraser on the East Coast on October 28.

The task of the police and army is also greatly complicated by the depth of moral and material support for the bandits. The numerous safe houses that have been revealed, the credible reports of medical assistance to injured gunmen and the array of vehicles and communications equipment at the disposal of the bandits point definitively in the direction of a substantial conspiratorial network in the city and on the coast.

It is quite clearly subscribed to by otherwise law-abiding citizens who for some twisted reason or another believe that they are contributing to a cause they will ultimately benefit from. It is a dangerous mindset studded with illogic and inimical to the fabric of society.

With the social partners’ crime communiqué seemingly more fraught with hurdles than talks on the final status of Jerusalem, each and every citizen has to do his or her patriotic duty and assist law enforcers to arrest these criminals, their sponsors and their patrons and bring them to justice. It is the only rational way out of this quicksand.

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