One of the most discussed topics in Guyana, and rightly so, is crime. It has impacted the lives of many citizens, not just the victims or their relatives, but others trying to avoid becoming victims.
People are genuinely appalled and concerned at the alarming crime statistics in the country, especially against women, children and the elderly. But crime has less to do with statistics and more to do with the lack of societal ethos.
However, in general, fighting crime should be the responsibility of everyone. Its reduction requires community activism and support. There will be little improvement in the reduction of crime without real and meaningful cooperation and participation by the citizens and the police.
Murder and armed robbery continue to be a major problem in Guyana, despite police statistics, which show a seven percent decrease in serious crimes at the end of April, compared to the same period last year.
The Guyana Police Force has indicated that in the first four months in 2018 compared to the same period last year, there was a 26 percent decline in murder; 32 percent reduction in robbery under arms where instruments other than firearms were used; nine percent drop in robbery with violence; 39 percent shrinkage in robbery with aggravation; 32 percent fall in larceny; 14 percent less rapes; and a seven percent plunge in break and enter and larceny.
However, the police statistics also cited a 26 percent increase in robberies where no instruments were used; 13 percent rise in robbery under arms where firearms were used and a 17 percent upsurge in burglary.
While the police statistics may be accurate, many have doubted it because they were compiled by the police without any independent verification from organizations. Others believe that the police statistics do not reflect the reality of the daily occurrence of crime in the country.
A recent assessment from the United States Department of State has placed the country’s crime rate at a critical level similar to that in Jamaica. The report stated that based on a population ratio, Guyana, with a small population of roughly 750,000, has a general crime rate that is above the United States national average.
Even though this may be true, it is very difficult for locals to believe, because of the large number of murders and other crimes that are occurring daily in the United States.
The U.S. report cited serious crimes such as murder and armed robbery as being common acts of violence in the country and that handguns, knives, machetes or cutlasses are the weapons of choice used by the criminals.
It identified drug trafficking as a serious concern to the government and the biggest challenge to law enforcement, because of its limited resources and manpower to effectively deter or respond to the criminals.
According to the U.S. report, corruption is widely perceived to be commonplace within many Government Departments and Agencies and that police officers have been both the victims and the perpetrators of crime.
Regarding the judiciary, the report stated that the courts are overwhelmed by the large number of cases and that the lack of witnesses coupled with limited resources and alleged bribery of some jurists have resulted in many cases being dismissed or postponed and the criminals set free on a regular basis.
The U.S. State Department has warned those who might be travelling to Guyana to be extra careful and to exercise caution when visiting banks; to avoid walking or driving at nights; not to show signs of wealth, and not to physically resist any robbery attempt.
Guyanese should heed this advice.
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