Berbicans lament increase in crime
Police say situation being exaggerated; residents urged to form CPGs
Kaieteur News
July 30, 2004

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A senior officer of the Guyana Police Force is appealing to residents in Berbice to re-establish Community Policing Groups (CPGs) to assist the police in the apparent increase in criminal activity in the area.

The appeal comes in the wake of what many Berbicians feel is a sharp increase in criminal activity in the country, especially in the Corentyne area.

The officer said that while the police are constitutionally bound to fight criminal activity, citizens could serve to deter crime by forming active community policing groups.

Within recent months, armed bandits have been creating havoc in Berbice with several reports of brazen robberies, one of which resulted in the death of a businessman.

The officer told this newspaper that despite what appears to be an upsurge in crimes, the situation is being exaggerated.

“Our records show that there has been a minimal increase in crimes in Berbice by 1.5 percent for January to June this year when compared to the same period last year.

It is a fact that there are more crimes committed with guns and this coupled with the over zealous reporting by the media are causing an alarm,” the officer explained.

Residents of the ancient county are lamenting what they described as the inadequate police patrols in the most affected communities.

But according to the officer, there are regular police patrols in the county, especially in the Corentyne area.

He however noted that because of the large area the patrols have to cover, it is possible that their movements are monitored by criminals, who would pounce on their victims whenever the patrols are out of the way.

“Berbice is not like, say, the East Coast. There the police could be assisted by ranks from the Tactical Services Unit (TSU) who are within a few miles of that location. In Berbice they have to do it all by themselves,” the officer stated.

He said that up to three months ago, there was a contingent from the TSU that was supplementing the patrols in that area of the country.

During that time, there was a decline in criminal activity in Berbice.

Kaieteur News understands that Berbicians have been calling for the return of the TSU.

But the officer pointed out that in the absence of more police ranks, citizens are encouraged to form Community Policing Groups.

Recently, Acting Home Affairs Minister Gail Texiera visited the county and met with several residents where the crime situation was discussed.

Kaieteur News understands that the residents are not against forming Community Policing Groups, but are calling for a stipend among other forms of assistance.

The substantive Home Affairs Minister, Ronald Gajraj, who is presently on leave, had stated that the administration is looking at the possibility of providing some form of financial assistance to CPGs.

The police currently assist with fuel for private vehicles which are on community policing duties.

Residents say they are not permitted to carry firearms during the initial formation of a CPG and have raised concerns about the provision of compensation, if a member is injured in a confrontation.

One resident argued that those who are granted licenses to carry firearm are the ones who are most reluctant to partake in community policing activities.

Following the Minister’s visit, the police have embarked on a massive campaign to resuscitate several defunct Community Policing Groups in the county, with the aim of significantly reducing the incidence of crime in Berbice.