Taking a closer look at crime Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
November 21, 2003

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THE incidents of murder that have occurred in the past several weeks are posing fresh challenges for the Guyana Police Force.

Hardly a day goes by without a report about people being the victims of violent crime. That's not only worrying, addressing it is also very challenging, to say the least.

Observers speculate that most of the murders are the result of gang warfare. However they are categorized, their commissioning has once again jolted the nation to heighten its awareness of crime prevention.

Each case has sparked debate on the issue of safety in public places and even in our homes. Men, women, adolescents and children alike are affected by the surge in serious crimes be it robbery, murder, rape or abduction, and the events of the last few weeks ought to jolt the supporters and accomplices of violent gangs into considering the implications of this deadly get-rich-quick lifestyle.

The Guyana Police Force, its public image under scrutiny by the Disciplined Forces Commission, is already hard at work grappling with a corps of criminals whose sophisticated armory and unbridled disrespect for people's inalienable right to life has pushed the Government to increase security spending by another $100 million in 2002.

But hardcore criminals aren't the only lawbreakers the agency has to contend with. The police reportedly are also up against rogue colleagues who leak privileged information to and therefore collude with known criminals, as well as a race-hate campaign by elements in our society that are trying to demoralize police/army ranks. These antagonists contend that the Government is using Afro-Guyanese servicemen to "eliminate" young Afro-Guyanese civilians. As ridiculously as it sounds, the hope is that the ranks will revolt, subvert the rule of law and ultimately help overthrow the PPP/Civic-led Government.

Interestingly, these anti-government forces have not yet pronounced on the shooting deaths in Buxton earlier this week, or on the discovery of a number of bodies in canals, in brushes or on parapets over the last two to three weeks.

The answer is clear. It's because the crimes being perpetrated by whoever is or are behind them are issue-, not race-related.

When gang-member relations sour, race or ethnicity is of little consequence to whoever is offended by what a "comrade" says or does or by what he fails to do or accomplish. A cruel system of justice informs the manner in which gangs relate to their members or to one another. Their sense of justice is an unrelenting recourse to violence, nothing less.

The overwhelming task of the police, therefore, is to identify and apprehend the source/s of these killings.

But crime fighting and crime prevention must include the targeting of the country's youths. Even though the conventional wisdom in the Third World is that development has to take place from within, the Police Force, the Ministry of Education or Human Services and public and private organizations should take a look at how "experienced" countries have addressed crime prevention, and modify their programmes to fit the Guyanese context.

In the U.S., for instance, the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) and Youth Crime Watch of America (YCWA) are combining forces to produce a powerful youth conference where youth and their adult allies can find inspiration, valuable skills, prevention knowledge, and national resources in the fight against crime, violence, and drugs.

Both organizations have found that challenging and motivating youths to make their communities and schools safer places is one of the most effective strategies to reduce delinquency, youth victimization and crime itself.

In Michigan, that state's Crime Prevention Association strives to "provide and promote crime prevention, education, training, technical assistance and professional development to crime prevention practitioners to improve the quality of life in Michigan communities."

Since many of those who succumb to crime are young people, we must strive to do more than we are doing at the present time to mobilize, educate and train our youths to gainfully utilize their talents and energies.

Experience suggests that there are no limits to what youths can achieve, especially when they are equipped with the right tools, the right plan, the right support, and the right attitude.