The Guyana Police Force (GPF) has in the past months seen significant growth in its capacity as well as an increase in public trust, leading to the reduction of crime at all levels and Commissioner of Police Mr. Seelall Persaud has said that this is due to a change in the administration.
With a 19 percent reduction in all serious crimes as of April this year, the evidence suggests that crime-fighting efforts are beginning to bear fruit. On his assumption to Office, President David Granger made the safety and security of citizens and visitors to Guyana a priority. He set up weekly security committee meetings with the Commissioner of Police and the Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), along with other key security officials and has been actively leading the fight against crime.
The President has acknowledged that more work still needs to be done but has spoken extensively on some of the changes that have been implemented. “We are augmenting the strength of the Police Force overall. It is about 20 percent under strength; we want to bring it up to strength. We have augmented the strength of the [Criminal Investigation Department] so there are now more and better trained detectives… Even our critics have accepted and acknowledged that crimes are being solved much more quickly than ever before,” President Granger said in response to questions from reporters on the Public Interest on May 6, 2016.
With increased support and capacity building efforts being meted out to them, the GPF has seemingly attacked their unenviable task with renewed energy. Over the past several months, they have been ardently working to ensure that all aspects of the Force are improved so as to operate at its utmost efficiency. The country has admittedly seen an increase in the speedy solving of crimes and police response. Commissioner Persaud said that the reason for this improvement is two-fold, and deals primarily with the increase in ranks and the increase in public interest.
The Commissioner admitted though that up to 2014, the Force had been at a shortage of its expected quota of police officers. By next year, the Commissioner is certain that the Force will achieve its full complement. “We have more ranks now. We have had a big shortage and then we had an expansion in the establishment. We had difficulties recruiting but we no longer have that difficulty. We have about 1200 applications currently. Before there wasn’t much interest in the Police Force but as we go out into the communities and engage people and they see how they operate, there are people who realised that that is what they wanted to do and so we started getting a flurry of applications,” he said.
Regarding public participation in providing information to the police, Commissioner Persaud stated that due to an increased number of partnership programmes established by the Force across the country, persons have been able to develop a better sense of trust in the police. “We go into communities to work with people and that has really developed public trust. So there are things happening where years before nobody sees or knows anything and now even before police start to do their canvassing for information, people are coming forward to give statements. That is why now you see a high profile crime occurring and a few days down the line people are arrested and charged,” he said.
He also noted that these changes are connected to the renewed sense of nationalism that has been sweeping the nation. “Trust is a big thing and if they don’t trust the top then it’s hardly likely that that trust will be heavy at lower levels because no matter how they trust you operating in the middle, I wouldn’t come forward because those instructing you are not trusted. There has been a renewed trust since the change of the administration and we have noted that and it has worked well for us,” he said.
With the addition of more vehicles, enhanced technology, structural adjustments and audit and inspection exercises to monitor behaviour, the Commissioner said that the Force is operating at a level that is more effectively able to tackle crime.
Yet there has been skepticism by members of the public as a result of the incidence of some high profile crimes over the past few months. These violent crimes make it difficult for some to believe that the reported 19 percent reduction in violent crime is accurate. The Commissioner said that this comes from an emotional place, where due to past experiences the public is quick to revert to a place of fear. “Action is driven from emotion rather than thinking, so they see high profile crime and it takes them back to a stage when things are really bad so that fear comes up again,” he said.
(Excerpt from a Ministry of the Presidency feature)
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