Don't be fooled by crime 'lull' -Gajraj

Stabroek News
May 5, 2003

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Minister of Home Affairs, Ronald Gajraj, yesterday called on the public to rid itself of the myth that there is a "lull" in crime saying that the criminals could strike at any time because they have good intelligence on their targets.

The minister said that many are of the opinion that there is a lull in the vicious crime situation but he dismissed this notion though conceding that there might have been a reduction of criminal activities in certain areas. The minister said that it is important for one to take account of the intelligence the criminals have at their disposal.

In recent months there has not been any large-scale attack by bandits which had become their calling card over the last year or so. Several wanted men and others have also turned up dead in various parts of the country.

The minister noted that there has been a general loss of public confidence in the police force adding that it is important for this confidence to be restored because a lot of what the force can do depends on the information it receives from the public.

According to the minister the government has done a lot in light of the limited resources available but admitted that there is still a great need to be done in terms of the fight against crime. He acknowledged that because of limited training sometimes the police might not have reacted to a situation correctly but added that crime "comes on horseback so to speak" and there is need for them to make adjustments to deal with it.

Gajraj was at the time addressing the eight Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the National Community Policing Executive Conference which was convened under the theme, `Sustaining Community Policing Through Education and Training' at the Police Officers' Mess, Eve Leary.

The minister attributed the reduction of crime in certain areas to the alertness of some policing groups which have had routine patrols in their communities.

He encouraged those communities which are not involved in such patrols to do so immediately and warned those involved not to become lax.

The minister stressed the need for community policing groups to be alert to criminal activities in their communities and also to be aware of any suspicious acts which they can report to the police.

The minister said that one of the things that upsets him the most is that after a crime is committed members of policing groups would report that they had seen some sort of suspicious activity prior to the commission of the crime.

Gajraj admonished the policing groups to pay attention to the youths in their communities and to plan activities that would involve them so as to keep them out "of harm's way."

Gajraj's admonition echoed that of acting Commissioner of Police Floyd McDonald who during his brief remarks sought the assistance of the groups in dealing with the younger members of society who are involved in criminal activities.

He called on the groups to work assiduously with the police force in ridding society of criminal activities and making it more peaceful.

According to the acting commissioner the force considers the policing groups to be very important since they bridge a vital gap between ordinary citizens and members of the force.

He said that policing groups have helped to reduce crime immensely on the lower East Coast and called for collaboration to be continued between the groups and the force.

McDonald acknowledged that the force cannot operate in a vacuum and as such there is need for the groups' help.

At the meeting Gajraj pointed out that even though the national body has been in operation for some eight years it has not been able to come up with constitutional and legislative proposals or its terms of reference.

As it is presently, the group is operating under the constitution of the police. The minister pointed out that when that constitution was drawn up community policing was not in existence.

He cautioned the executive body not to sit and wait on him to come up with ideas as they are the persons who have to develop proposals. The minister noted that there had been incidents of "backstabbing and backbiting" among groups and called for this to end and for the better functioning of the groups.

The minister promised to donate a cheque to the national body adding that he would attempt to persuade Minister of Finance, Saisnarine Kowlessar to allocate funds to the body. The chairman of the national body, William Boston, appealed for $6 million which will see each of the six divisions receiving $1 million. Gajraj also spoke about the number of policemen who have lost their lives during the upsurge in crime. One minute of silence was observed for those who lost their lives.

The minister extended an invitation to residents in the areas most affected by crime to come out and form community policing groups so that crime could be reduced.

The AGM was attended by a number of senior police officers, including Commissioner of Police (designate), Winston Felix, and scores of policing group members. A new executive was to be elected yesterday. (Samantha Alleyne)

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