A resurgence of crime Editorial
Stabroek News
February 16, 2004

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The past few weeks have seen a worrying resurgence of criminality radiating from the Buxton/ Friendship area. It has been mainly of three types: the waylaying of vehicles on the public road and the embankment and the merciless robbing of their passengers, home invasions and robberies in neighbouring villages and the murderous settling of vendettas against fellow gang members and others.

As had been the case at the height of the criminal rampage last year, the perpetrators of many of these crimes are youths from the villages. The youths who were sucked into the vortex of lawlessness were primarily lookouts and scouts for the more hardened criminals and later, from various accounts, marshalled themselves into gun-toting bicycle gangs murdering and robbing their way across East Coast villages.

With the career criminals mostly gone, these youth gangs have stepped into the void and resumed the terrorising of villagers from Buxton/Friendship and neighbouring villages while plundering and shooting with wild abandon.

Minus the five prison escapees and their cohorts, these youths pose a smaller threat but nonetheless they have again glaringly exposed the shortcomings of the police force. One would have thought that in the aftermath of their unpreparedness for the onslaught not so long ago that the police force would have been more proactive in nipping this resurgence in the bud. They clearly haven't and the question has to be asked as to whether they lack the will or the ability. It was this lack of single-mindedness and commitment by the police that led to the carnage which included the murder of many police officers and finally resulted in the formation of death squads with their varied agendas.

That the perpetrators have not yet been rounded up and prosecuted for each of the outrageous crimes including last Wednesday's where an Enterprise man miraculously survived two bullets fired by youths at his head and another where a pick-up filled with men was wantonly punctured with a fusillade, is testimony to the police's continued inability to gather intelligence in the area and to act upon it. The youth gangs must be rounded up and prosecuted. Where are they hiding their weapons and why are the police not finding them?

Neither the government nor the nation can permit the burgeoning of a new wave of unrelenting crime from the kernel that now exists in Buxton/Friendship. That would be a gross dereliction of duty on all sides and can only lead to further bloodshed and mayhem. The second anniversary of the jail-break that started it all is a week away from today so this is a good enough moment for the police, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the government to take stock of the situation. Sure, there are many distractions: the murder of Shafeek Bacchus and the death squad allegations, the mysterious demise of Mark Thomas, the bickering in the PPP and the growing threat of political stalemate. However, the crime rearing its head again must be dealt with professionally, firmly and swiftly by the police.

Of course, the force needs assistance. With the new Police Commissioner, Winston Felix, being sworn in today, a prime opening exists for the Top Cop to begin a new relationship with the villagers of Buxton/Friendship to assure them that the police are committed to protecting and respecting them. Mutual respect is needed before the police can hope to extract any help from the area.

It is not only the villagers who can extend a helping a hand. We have said many times before that the PNCR can lend a helping hand too. It should abandon its constant carping about the failures of the police and use the support it has historically had in these villages to counsel the villagers and the youths on the dangers that the continuing crime spree poses. The PNCR has made the valid point that the poverty, unemployment and decay in these villages need to be addressed as a means of attacking the root causes of the crime. However, that should not preclude the party from taking a more active stand in trying to roll back crime.

Ultimately, the government bears the prime responsibility for providing answers on the continuing nettlesome crime problem in these villages. Aside from impressing upon the police the need for decisive action, it should also deploy its various human services and educational programmes to the villages to offer some means of distracting youths of Buxton/Friendship from the criminal path.