The Stabroek Market area has been taken over (again) by the forces of lawlessness. This is a troubling state of policing; one that must not be allowed to stand for long. It must be reversed and rapidly.
Disregard for law and order is prevalent and in plain sight. There is nothing subtle or in the shadows about what is in full swing in that well-peopled centre of ordinary, man-in-the-street commerce. It may not be an exaggeration to say that the criminals have taken over the square and threaten the system. Because if such a high-profile takeover by the lawless, and the needed presence of law enforcement, then the reasonable questions are: where does this leave the law-abiding?
In what kinds of dangerous straits, and on a daily basis, is the small man and woman, left to navigate nervously, if not fearfully? As voiceless as they may be, and as hapless their plight, they ought not to be abandoned to whatever fate awaits them in what has become a truly treacherous place.
Let this first truth be faced. The clerks and domestics and lower level workers have no choice. Taxis are a luxury, and certainly cannot be thought of for resolution to their situation. Similarly, personal vehicle ownership may be out of reach. Thus, it is the bus park, and the Stelling and speed boats. The second circumstance is that for variety, availability, quantity, quality, and that all-important price consideration, the Stabroek market cannot be competed with, be it for fruits and vegetables, greens and seafood, as well as dry goods and a whole host of everyday products. It is clearing house, liming spot, drinking place, arrival and jump-off point, and some other activities best left unmentioned.
The commuters and shoppers in and around the Stabroek Square are not the high-toned, well-heeled citizens, who can afford to bypass the Stabroek market and patronise, for the most part, the fancier, pricier, and much safer supermarkets and outlets. They can go so far (and they do) to sample the broccoli and Brussel sprouts and the flood of foreign fare now available in select places catering to those very needs. These upwardly mobile (or already well-established) can hold on to their purses, park in reserved areas, browse contentedly, and pay with cheque or card, without looking over shoulder, or sensing ever-present danger, or having to watch for a cast of unsavoury characters. The Stabroek market people, unfortunately, are not at that stage in life.
The simple people who use, pass through, stop by, and otherwise, need a constant police presence; a robust one, if only for the deterrent effect. Look at what was there for a long time before. There were the touts harassing people; intimidating them, too. There were the minibus drivers and conductors bullying and crowding others out of the line. There were the hustlers and spotters and players all on the lookout for a mark to help relieve them of their hard-earned cash or possessions. These unruly situations, many times deliberately manufactured, provided the perfect cover to sneak a hand into a pocketbook or pocket; or snatch a watch or grab a chain or phone. In the crush, many a victim did not realise their loss until it was too late.
All of this adds to a generalised atmosphere and sense of chaos. It cannot be left untended. There cannot be either throwing up hands or retreating before the tide. This much should be made clear: this paper is aware of, and understanding as to, the manpower predicament of the Guyana Police Force. It is caught in a bind with less than enthusiastic responses to recruitment drives. And when the less than desirable numbers are attracted, this is then whittled down by the continuing loss of trained ranks to one or another breach of law or policy or procedure. It is an uphill struggle made more gruelling by the pay scale and other benefits conditions of the police profession, which leave it undermanned and, to some extent, unable to plug vital spots. A serious and thorough examination of where things are, and what is required to make a difference, would go far in terms of more recruiting numbers.
In the meantime, limited resources and low morale and all, the GPF has to stand the line and deliver that sense of security which comes with a uniform presence in the neighbourhood of the Stabroek market. This is an ongoing test case, a very visible one, as to what is needed desperately, and what cannot be left alone. If not here, then where next?
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