In my last column I indicated that any strategy to find crime in Guyana and which is based primarily on improved training, increased resources and police reform will not reduce crime in Guyana. I pointed to a country in the Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago with all the resources in the world and which has seen an escalation in crime.
The question therefore is what needs to be done. This is what I will concentrate on today.
The first observation is that we are criminalizing our young people by jailing them for having small amounts of marijuana.
These persons when they enter into the prisons end up consorting with hardened criminals and since society shuns them upon their release they are pushed into crime and association with hardened criminals.
The legalization of marijuana can be conditional and controlled.
Persons need not be jailed for having small amounts of marijuana, especially now that other countries in the world are seeing the wisdom, not of legalizing marijuana, but of making legal money out of the illegal nature of possession of marijuana.
We need a market solution to the problem of our jails being filled up with young men smoking a joint here and there. We need to have a controlled situation whereby persons can legally buy small quantities of marijuana for recreational purposes.
This can be done in a way to limit the amount any one person can have. If this is done, the jails would not be that filled with young people and it would bankrupt a lot of local marijuana sellers since prices would fall and the business would not be profitable.
Other countries are taking action and Guyana should examine what is being done.
This past week there was a complaint by a private sector official about “immigration controls” for internal travel. The term “immigration controls” for travel inside a country is oxymoronic. Immigration controls relate to persons leaving the country.
There are immigration controls however, where persons are traveling to one part of the country from another part which is a port of entry.
In this instance there is a need for immigration controls because without these controls illegal immigrants can secrete themselves as nationals.
The more germane point is about police monitoring of persons going into certain parts of the country. This is not a new policy. It has been around for some time. It also happens in many parts of Europe.
If you are, for example, a visitor to certain parts of France or Italy, you will be required as matter of policy to report to the police station where you are staying.
The reason is simple. The authorities want to monitor, for security purposes and for the safety of visitors, the movement of persons entering these domestic jurisdictions.
Without such controls, persons would disappear and the authorities would be unable to trace them.
It has been the practice in Guyana for persons entering interior areas to give their names to the police so that the authorities know who is in these areas. This is the sort of control that should be encouraged.
The police cannot deny movement, except if it is to an Amerindian reservation but there is no harm done by them monitoring the movement of persons within and out interior communities. These controls will do more in the anti-crime fight than the training and reform of the police.
The next measure that will be helpful in reducing crime is social engineering. Zoning needs to be reintroduced so as to help the police to have a better handle on crime. Right now the police are spread thin.
There are businesses which can be found in residential areas. If there were specific areas designated for industry, for entertainment, for businesses and for residences, it will make a world of difference to crime-fighting.
But these days you cannot stop anyone and question them why they are in an area far from where they live because they can claim they are looking for a shop to drink a few beers.
If however, there are no such shops in residential areas, then these persons will have to have a good explanation as to their presence.
Freedom is not absolute. I cannot walk into your home without your permission. Similarly people should be able to go anywhere without some controls.
These are the things that will make Guyana safer. The permissive society has to be rolled back. Order has to be restored even if it involves some restrictions on personal freedom.
That is the price we have to pay to reduce crime, not billions of dollars being wasted on buying vehicles and guns and batons and equipment for the police.
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