Citizens must help police in crime fight - Commissioner McDonald
Guns used in 246 of 411 robberies this year

Stabroek News
April 25, 2003

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Police Commissioner(ag) Floyd McDonald told the Annual Police Conference which opened yesterday that the wave of criminal activity could be stemmed if law-abiding citizens worked together.

He told the audience, which included President Bharrat Jagdeo who delivered the feature address, Home Affairs Minister, Ronald Gajraj, PNCR leader, Robert Corbin and Chancellor of the Judiciary, Desiree Bernard, "if we do not work together the only beneficiaries of the current situation will be the bandits. There is no other way out of this problem."

He alluded to the theme of the conference, "Staying together in the fight against crime" and told his audience, "In keeping with our trust of total involvement in the fight against crime, this theme to my mind stressed the need for all of us to join hands together to rid our society of banditry".

The Commissioner pointed out that the increase in criminal activity was mainly in "parts of Georgetown and areas on the East Coast Demerara".

"The other areas have been experiencing far lower levels of crime", McDonald said, adding "parts of the mining district are sometimes affected by criminal acts suspected to be committed by persons who leave the coastland and commit offences in those areas."

And on a related issue, the Commissioner had high praise for the people of Linden who he said have been giving the police significant support in dealing with criminal acts committed in the community. He said that persons suspected of committing these acts were turned over to the police and it was the sort of support he would like to see replicated across the country.

Describing the features of the criminal activities in the high crime areas, the Commissioner pointed out that one in two of the robberies to which the police were required to respond involved the use of firearms. He said that last year out of the 1620 robberies, the number of them in which firearms were used was 902. So far this year, he said that they were used in 246 of the 411 reports of robberies received.

The Commissioner also said that there was no escaping the conclusion that policemen were being deliberately targeted, pointing out that of the 12 policemen killed last year, six were off duty when they met their death. "For 2003 - seven of the eight policemen killed were off duty while two were killed during robberies."

As a result, the Commissioner said it "is difficult not to conclude that the targeting of our membership is not accidental but deliberate."

"The aim is to demoralise our ranks thus making them ineffective paving the way for the bandits to cause mayhem in our society."

Besides the armed robberies, other features of the wave of criminal activity engulfing the society include kidnappings, which increased dramatically during the latter part of last year along with carjackings, which spiralled after the February 23 prison escape of five notorious criminals.

The Commissioner said that the force as a matter of urgency was looking at a number of initiatives to address this type of criminal activity, which required skilful handling because of the risks involved. However, he said, "We are asking everyone to take more precautions in their daily activities thus reducing the risk of being victims of kidnappings."

About the carjackings, McDonald noted that while 99 per cent of the 110 cars hijacked last year were recovered, "a number of hire car drivers have lost their lives while trying to resist attempts to steal their vehicles."

He noted that there had also been instances where the Police "were suspicious of the actions of hire care drivers", as "in fact some may have been acting in collusion with the bandits."

Up to the end of last month, McDonald said seventeen vehicles were reported hijacked for the year and he urged the owners of hire car services to exercise more caution. "We appreciate the difficulties the law-abiding hire car owners encounter in earning a living but the exercise of caution is still necessary."

The Commissioner praised President Jagdeo for the "significant amount of protective gear, vehicles and other inputs from his administration," adding that the force was looking forward for more support this year and beyond.

He also stressed the need for intensified training, which he said had already started but more overseas assistance was needed.

The Commissioner also welcomed the efforts being made to establish the Service Commissions, the absence of which he said "is causing severe difficulties at the moment." "We have vacancies for thirty-six Officers and thirty-four Inspectors. Those shortages have placed a severe burden on the management of the organisation. We look forward to the vacancies being filled shortly."

The Commissioner issued a word of caution to those "persons who have been busy attempting to demoralise the members of the Police Force without understanding the implications of such reckless conduct."

"They have been sending the wrong signals to the bandits" who the Commissioner said, "view the attacks on members of the force as support for them."

He observed that whenever "a member of the force is shot or injured rather than condemning the actions of the criminals a number of persons with agendas too numerous to mention either try to blame the incident on alleged extra-judicial killings or some perceived misconduct by the rank." Such actions he observed tended to embolden the criminals.

With regards to Buxton, McDonald said that it was unfortunate that it had become a haven to bandits. "Many law-abiding villagers have become virtual prisoners in their own village, a village with a proud history."

He said that he hoped. "...persons will come to their senses and understand that bandits are bandits" as "any injection of race and other stereotypes will only serve to cloud the real issue confronting us."

He stressed that the many efforts aimed at causing dissent among the members of the Force have "failed and will continue to fail" as "we have a long and proud tradition of service to this nation."

"It is my strong belief that we will overcome our difficulties. All we have to do is work together to rid our beloved country of banditry."

He praised too the support from the Chief of Staff and the members of the Guyana Defence Force and recognised the other contributions of the other services to the efforts of the Police Force during the past year. (Patrick Denny)

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