Clamping down on crime
The year is less than two weeks old but already there have been two murders, a death by fire, a road fatality and more than a few reports of armed robbery that claimed the lives of two of the victims. One of them was the wife of a former mayor of Rose Hall Town and the other a housewife who was attacked on December 20, last year but who died earlier this year.
These statistics would not have been so worrying had it not been for the fact that in all these cases not one of the victims could have claimed to have been relatively high profile people who would attract attention. But there is another aspect to these unfortunate happenings; no one saw or heard anything.
In rural Guyana where the principle of a village raising a child is still the main factor, people always look out for each other. Neighbours would inform each other if they are leaving and ask that someone keeps an eye on the property and more often than not, the children. This is routine.
However in Rose Hall Town, when armed men attacked the home of the former mayor, although there were buildings nearby, none of the neighbours claimed to have heard anything. Perhaps it may have had to do with the manner in which homes are being constructed these days—sealed to the roof and requiring artificial ventilation.
Perhaps in recognition of the changing nature of the society the Ministry of Home Affairs introduced such concepts as Neighbourhood Police and Community Policing Groups. These are expected to patrol the communities in the company of a member of the regular police force. In some cases these groups have been successful in either apprehending criminals or in averting crimes.
The government is pouring a lot of money into citizens’ security yet one gets the impression that even members of the community are not too enamoured with lending support to the very groups that have undertaken to be responsible for their safety. And there is a reason for this. People have become more reclusive and less open to other members of the society.
This situation may have to do with financial status. People who are financially better off may not be inclined to hobnob with the less fortunate and it is always the poorer people who must provide the security service for the wealthy. Every house in an affluent neighbourhood has a guard—these days more women than men—and there are more police patrols than anywhere else. One would suppose that the wealthy have more to fear from criminals.
Where village life is strong, crime is at its lowest; people not only look out for each other but they also react like bees from a hive in the face of a criminal attack. It has been the same in certain sections of the city. On some streets there are those who are public spirited citizens who would respond to a criminal attack and this may have helped curtail the rate of crime in and around the city.
But there is still a humbug and it is linked directly to police operations. There have been countless reports of people calling the police stations and even the hotlines and getting no response. And when they do they are informed that there are no police ranks to respond.
The now dead police commissioner, Henry Greene, had announced that each police station would have a unit that would respond to crime in a timely manner. Indeed, there have been reports of policemen arriving so quickly that they were able to catch the criminals in the act. This needs to be expanded countrywide; the government is pouring money into the Guyana Police Force.
It has not escaped notice that some policemen have also been caught in armed criminal activity, adding to the concerns of the wider society. However, there seems to be a slow change for the better.