Citizen security Editorial
Stabroek News
January 5, 2007

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Responding to the surge in violent crime over the last six years, the Administration adopted a multi-dimensional approach that relies not solely on the Guyana Police Force but also on creating parallel schemes based on the greater involvement of citizens and their communities. This is good.

To supplement the long-established Community Policing Groups (CPG), the Administration introduced a Neighbourhood Policing Programme (NPP) and also recently announced its intention to start a Crime Stoppers Scheme (CSS).

In addition, the Administration has had the benefit of the voluminous report of the National Steering Committee on Crime (NSCC) which carried out a series of public consultations in 2002; the recommendations of the Disciplined Forces Commission (DFC) which was set up in 2003; the ongoing advice of the 26-member National Commission on Law and Order (NCLO) which it established in 2005; and of numerous studies from United Kingdom experts, including from the Metropolitan Police and the Scottish Police College.

On top of this enormous corpus of reports, programmes, schemes, and strategies comes the Citizen Security Programme (CSP) which is to be funded by a US$19.8 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

CSP, however, is not really a relevant, home-grown solution that responds to national needs; it has not emerged from the Administration's numerous efforts and experiences and the laborious exertions of its many committees and commissions nor does it fully incorporate the recommendations for rectifying specific problems. It is also not national in scope; it seems to have been tailored to deal only with certain types of crimes common to the troublesome Demerara-Mahaica and East Berbice-Corentyne regions but ignores serious crimes such as narcotics-smuggling, gun-running and trafficking in persons in the Cuyuni-Mazaruni, Potaro-Siparuni and other hinterland regions which fuel crime in the rest of the country.

Developed by the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) to suit post-civil war situations in Latin American states such as El Salvador, Guatemala and Haiti, the IDB has financed CSPs in Colombia, Chile, Honduras, Nicaragua and Uruguay which have completely different criminal, communal and cultural profiles to rural Guyana. The CSP is just another untried exotic import which the Administration will try to graft onto a very local and peculiar crime situation.

In its eclectic security strategy, the Administration seems to be bent on adopting foreign-funded models while ignoring the empirical evidence and specific recommendations of its own local commissions. For example, recommendations that the CPG system be integrated into the pre-existing, legally-established Rural Constabulary and be placed within a legislative framework so as to ensure that its functions are institutionalised and strictly supervised have been studiously ignored.

When questioned recently by the Alliance for Change (AFC) in the National Assembly about the Administration's promise to introduce legislation to place the CPG on a proper legal basis, Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee nonchalantly admitted that there were no plans to do so.

This is not the way to inspire the confidence and to encourage communities and citizens to participate in public safety. As the country emerges from the bloody year of 2006 characterised by record rates of armed robberies and murders, and as it prepares for the challenge of hosting a segment of the Cricket World Cup, there should be little doubt about the importance of Community Policing, the Neighbourhood Policing, Crime Stoppers and Citizen Security programmes.

But the Administration needs to rely more on the abundant evidence which has been accumulated, to respond to the reasonable requests of the people's representatives, and to heed local voices to ensure the success of this important citizen-based, multi-dimensional strategy.