The Guyana Police Force (GPF)’s Crime Chief, Seelall Persaud, took umbrage at the advisory issued by the US State Department’s Overseas Security Advisory Council on crimes in Guyana in general, and Georgetown in particular. While we understand the normal bureaucratic tendency to defend their turf, we found Crime Chief Persaud’s indignation a bit overdone.
He claims that the report cites an increase in crimes and he trots out figures to indicate that in fact there has actually been a decline. While most Guyanese would dispute those figures (they are quite aware of how statistics can be plucked from their contexts to prove almost any assertion) in fact, all the report actually claimed was, “Serious crime, including murder and armed robbery, continues to be a major problem. The murder rate in Guyana is three times higher than the murder rate in the United States.
“In 2008, an attack in the Georgetown suburb of Lusignan and in the Essequibo River town of Bartica by heavily armed gangs resulted in the deaths of more than 20 persons, mostly innocent Guyanese civilians. There were also several instances of random shootings at night at police headquarters or police stations in Georgetown. Guyana Security Forces shot and killed the leader of the gang thought to be responsible for these incidents; however, there is still concern that remnants of these criminal gangs and others exist and continue to operate. You are encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance, consider security issues when planning activities throughout Guyana, and avoid travelling at night, when possible.”
Where in all of the foregoing is there the suggestion that the crime rate has increased? All it says or implies is that the crime rate is very high – with which we heartily concur. If the present rate represents a decrease, one can only shudder to imagine what it was before.
The Crime Chief also cavilled at the reference to the crime gangs and their possible persistence. He claimed that they were being funded by elements residing in the US and the latter was not very helpful in cutting off that funding. While we appreciate the Crime Chief’s point, he should appreciate that the US may also have concerns that his force and the government may not be doing enough to cut off the cocaine flowing through Guyana to the US. Could it be a case of “hand should wash hand”?
The Crime Chief also played down the report’s concern on hotel safety: “Armed robberies continue to occur intermittently, especially in major business and shopping districts. Hotel room strong-arm break-ins also occur; you should use caution when opening your hotel room doors and should safeguard any valuables left in hotel rooms. Criminals may act brazenly, and police officers themselves have been the victims of assaults and shootings. When travelling in a vehicle you should keep the doors locked and be aware of your surroundings at all times… Due to safety concerns, you should avoid stopping in or travelling to the village of Buxton, which lies along the road between Georgetown and New Amsterdam, and Agricola, which is located on the East Bank highway.”
He claimed that there were only two reports of hotel break-ins during the past two years. Really?
Overall, we found the American advisory to be very sensible, and commend it to all Guyanese – especially those visiting Georgetown. For instance, who could dispute the following? “Petty crimes also occur in the general area of Stabroek Market and to a lesser extent in the area behind Bourda Market. Care should be taken to safeguard personal property when shopping in these markets. The area around St. George’s cathedral is known for having pickpockets and should be avoided after dark. Guyana’s commercial downtown between Main Street and Water Street from Lamaha Road to Stabroek Market, including “Tiger Bay,” is largely deserted outside of business hours and should be avoided after dark.”
In fact in some instances citizens may find the report too generous: “Local law-enforcement authorities are generally cooperative but lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents.”
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