The Makhanlall report Editorial
Stabroek News
November 22, 2006

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By the time that Assistant Commissioner for Law Enforcement Mr Heeralall Makhanlall was ready to deliver his report on the crime situation at the Guyana Police Force's press conference to launch its Christmas policing plan earlier this month, police patrols had already arrested a prominent city businessman and his wife and seized a large cache of weapons and a stash of cocaine found in houses to which they were connected.

Giving his review of the crime situation for the year, however, Mr Makhanlall made no mention of the seizure of the cache; in fact, he made no mention of the criminal gun-running and narco-trafficking trades at all although the Force's counter narcotics unit is part of his department. He spoke mainly of the killing of wanted men and sundry suspects in police 'shootouts'. In particular, he noted the sharp increase in the number of execution-style murders.

There were 136 murders for the period 1 January to 6 November this year compared to 104 for a similar period last year. Of these, 'executions' accounted for 43 or 31.6 per cent of all murders this year while, for the same period last year, just 26 or 25 per cent of all murders were executions.

Although it is difficult to determine motives for murders without a trial, it is widely suspected that execution-style murders are associated with soured drug deals, drug-gang warfare and various other vendettas. They differ in method from murders which result from domestic disputes and ordinary armed robbery. But Mr Makhanlall drew no conclusions from his figures.

The report suffers from the traditional, pre-narcotics mindset of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) which never fully adjusted to the heightened tempo of transnational crime involving the use of aircraft, maritime vessels and all-terrain vehicles and managed by educated entrepreneurs. In fact, the UK team which carried out an investigation of the Force described the tools and methodologies applied by the CID in the investigation of serious crime as originating "from the early to mid-twentieth century," adding that the lack of modern and proactive investigative techniques seriously hampered the GPF's ability to counter sophisticated crime, in relation to money-laundering and drug-trafficking, which has come to the fore over the recent past.

To make matters worse, the CID's professionalism has been undermined by the imprudent appointment of non-specialist senior officers. For example, the Department was used as a stepping-stone for the advancement of Messrs. Floyd McDonald, Winston Felix and Henry Greene to the Commissioner's office, none of whom had adequate experience in that field. It was not surprising, therefore, that Mr Makhanlall's report was less relevant to suppressing present-day crime than it could have been. His statistics did focus on armed robbery involving the use of firearms of which there were 990 reports this year compared to 836 last year. Similarly, the Force's response has emphasized reducing the number of robberies under arms and, with the support of the Guyana Defence Force, the number of mobile patrols, raids, roadblocks, and cordon-and-search operations increased. All these activities are important but it is much more important to prevent the entry into the country of guns and drugs and to stamp out money-laundering which all fuel violent crime in the first place.

Public safety means much more than shooting suspects. The CID needs to focus more on the detection and prevention of all crime if the protection of citizens is to be assured.