HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE!
It is extremely damaging to the image of Guyana when during the staging of international cricket, a resident of a foreign country is robbed and shot while sitting at a local bar.
This is going to make headlines around the world, and while it does not mirror the relative safety of Guyana, foreign embassies are now going to issue all manner of travel advisories simply because of this incident.
It will also receive additional attention precisely because it occurred when a number of West Indians are in the country for cricket and when so too are foreign journalists.
The death of this Canadian which was only sketchily reported on the Internet edition of the Kaieteur News follows closely on the heels of other robberies which have involved the use of guns. In one of these incidents, the police managed to apprehend a suspect.
The recent burst of armed robberies is a source of great concern and needs to be arrested. One of the principal targets are now small businesses since only a short while ago, a shop in a squatting area was attacked. In this latest incident it was a well patronized bar located in an area which does not have a great many such pubs.
The short-term response would involve the police obtaining intelligence information on who carried out the attack, which along with whatever forensic and other evidence, should allow them to advance their investigations.
But there are also long- term responses, which need to be considered. Among these is social engineering, which would allow the security forces to have greater effectiveness. Right now this effectiveness is being diluted, because the security forces are spread too thin. They are required to cover a large area in their patrols because businesses are being allowed to spring up all over. This makes it very difficult for the police, since there are now shops and businesses mushrooming in residential areas, and this means that the police have to now increase their patrols to these areas. Prior to this, they may not have needed to, because the householders would have reported any suspicious movements in their community. Now with so many businesses in residential areas, it is difficult for householders to know who is coming to do business within an area and who is coming to loot and rape.
Zoning has long gone haywire in Guyana. There is one area in Guyana where residents are taking firm steps to ensure that businesses do not encroach on their territory, but in most other areas it is wild season. For example, businesses are not supposed to be erected in government housing schemes. Yet in many of these schemes, bottom house shops are being erected, thus further causing problems for the security forces.
Are all of these bottom house shops registered? Have they obtained the requisite permission from the building authorities? What about these businesses that are springing up in residential areas? How are these businesses obtaining the requisite permission?
If the government is serious not just about social order but more so about national security it has to stop this anarchy that is taking place as regards the establishment of businesses. It has to commit to zoning so as to make the country safer for everyone.
A few years ago, when there was a burst of armed robberies within the commercial centre of Georgetown, heavily armed patrols were placed along Regent Street. These patrols are still around and show the benefits of zoning, because they are concentrated in a commercial zone.
Now with the commercial zone expanding and businesses being allowed to prop up here, there and everywhere, the police cannot be expected to adequately patrol every area in which there are businesses. This shows that by simply zoning certain areas, a great deal of improvement can result and not just in the area of crime- fighting.
Zoning is going to allow for a whole range of benefits to communities. People are going to be allowed peace and quiet in their homes, free from the disturbances of bars and churches and the pollution of restaurants and woodworking factories.
The police can do a great deal more, but they cannot do the impossible, and the authorities by treating zoning as if it were a second hand napkin are making the job of the police far more difficult.
Guyana does not have to be crime–ridden. The vast majority of Guyanese are peace loving and law-abiding citizens. It is only a small group of vagabonds that are causing so much pain and suffering to our country, and are giving us a bad reputation.
Let us give the lawmen a fighting chance to rein in the high levels – however reduced it may be relative to previous years – of crime. Let us reverse the descent into anarchy in the terms of building codes and regulations. Let us revamp the Central Housing and Planning Authority and put in place stern regulations and strong enforcement mechanisms to ensure that through good zoning, Guyana is restored to the wonderful country it was once.