Over the past few months, there has been a sharp increase in crime in both Regions Five (Mahaica-Berbice) and Six (East Berbice-Corentyne), and even though the authorities in those Regions are not admitting it, they have failed the community in ensuring that citizens are getting the kind of protection they deserve.
Bandits are creating havoc in Berbice villages and citizens have expressed a deep sense of fear that they could be pounced upon at any time. We have seen the most brazen attacks over the past few weeks which have left many citizens wondering when the authorities would be able to get a firm grip and arrest the situation once and for all.
For example, following several armed robberies at Port Mourant, Ankerville and Hampshire Squatting Area last week, the police were dared last Sunday as two armed men went into a home situated just opposite the Albion Police Station and carried out a robbery where cash and jewellery were stolen from a family. It should be noted that even though the police station is just across the road, the bandits managed to escape.
There were many similar instances of the police being located not very far from where the crime is taking place, but yet the bandits managed to escape. And while this may be happening more of recent in Berbice, a similar situation exists in other areas of the country.
Certainly, the statistics are worrying and underscore the need for urgent action by the Ministry of Public Security and the relevant law enforcement agencies. For example, in 2015, there were 24 murders committed compared with 20 during the previous year, robbery under arms showed a 25 per cent increase, moving from 60 in 2014 to 85 in 2015. Also, robbery with violence showed a steep increase, moving from eight in 2014 to 19 last year. Further, there were 41 reports of rape in Berbice in 2015 compared with 23 the previous year.
We are almost at the end of the first quarter in 2016, and the situation does not look as if it is improving, especially as it relates to the number of armed robberies taking place. It could be recalled that not so long ago, the SWAT Unit was deployed to Berbice to dismantle gangs that were known to be responsible for some of the criminal activities in the county. From all indications, since the SWAT Unit’s deployment to the county, there were some successes as it helped the Berbice Police deal with several high-profile cases. Many arrests were made and the perpetrators were taken before the courts.
However, not long after the gangs were dismantled, the authorities made a decision to recall the SWAT Unit. Perhaps the authorities may want to consider having a more permanent presence of such a crime fighting mechanism, even on a reduced scale to address the changing dynamic of crime.
A point to note too is that the GPF has resource and manpower limitations that inhibit their ability to deter or respond to criminal activity in a timely manner. Even in the occasions when police officers respond to a crime scene, victims are asked to go to the nearest police station to file a report.
We urge the Government to revisit the issue of the increasing crime rate in the regions, and take the necessary action that will hopefully result in peace and order in the various communities. Government must provide the resources needed to fight crime, such as more patrol vehicles, manpower and so on.
Additionally, there is dire need for the police to step up efforts as it relates to more intelligence-led policing. Building better community relations will certainly go a far way in helping them to be successful in this regard. At present, the general perception is that confidence in the GPF is low due to the public’s perception of ineffectiveness and corruption in some cases.
There were quite a few inquiries into the crime situation in Guyana and the recommendations coming out of those commissions are too numerous to mention. No need to rehash them at this point. It is well known what needs to be done.