Crime victims need support, not spurning
Guyana Chronicle
June 20, 2003

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THE joint operations in Buxton by the Guyana Police and Guyana Defense Forces have been directly responsible for the noticeable decline in violent crimes in Guyana.

Most of the country’s notorious criminals have been killed - including six at one time - and many others have been apprehended in the joint services operations. Yet we say “noticeable decline” because it would be naïve for anyone to expect that the joint operations would bring an end to serious crimes on the Guyanese landscape.

But the Guyana Human Rights Association has so outraged the public by its questioning of the motive of the police/army contingent’s ‘cordon-and-search’ operation in Buxton that we felt compelled to talk a little about the issue here.

The GHRA is right: “the fact that all six (bandits) died, no one was wounded, no one gave themselves up and no one was arrested,” was “simply not credible.”

The question is, not credible for whom? If we may hazard, it’s not credible for those who are supportive of criminals because it points to the spiral of unconcern for other people to which these proponents of crime have sunken.

It is also an embarrassment for a Guyana that was once virtually free of violent crimes to now have to be labeled by Canada, Britain and the U.S. as being too crime-infested for their citizens to visit and for foreign investors to do business with.

The concern of the public is that the GHRA isn’t sensitive to the trauma that victims of crime experience and therefore doesn’t vent its opposition to the criminals who create terror across the Guyanese coastland - kidnapping, raping, robbing, beating and/or killing civilians; torching women and the elderly, some to death; executing security officers; hijacking taxis and murdering taxi drivers; engaging in fatal drive-by shootings; and channa bombing or otherwise destroying private property.

And it’s not the first time that the GHRA has displayed this bias for the criminals or victors of crime and against the victims of these crimes.

We don’t know what has to happen for the executives of the GHRA to have a change of heart. But we’re appealing for the setting up of a National Center for Victims of Crime. We’re also calling on the criminal justice system to do a better job meeting victims’ needs by being more supportive of crime fighting by our law enforcement agencies, thus making citizen safety a higher priority.

In the United States, where a similar center operates, a recent report represented a vote of no confidence in the U.S. criminal justice system after it was estimated that there were about 15 million crime victims in that country.

There are undoubtedly many cases here that aren’t being reported by victims and several factors contribute to those low reporting rates. One is the feeling that the criminal justice system does not meet victims’ emotional, physical or financial needs in the aftermath of crime. Another is the fear that offenders will retaliate and the system won’t protect them.

The GHRA would do well to look on the side of the victims of violent crimes for a change. It should join public and private organizations in studying the factors that are endemic to violent crimes and take concrete steps to protect victims, and make sure that the victims of violent crimes have the support and services they need.

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