By Leonard Gildarie
Elections are two weeks away. There is almost a surreal feel in the air. People are walking almost in a daze, as if the elections are months away instead.
The Coalition has come out with a manifesto which commits to several things, including more house lots and the development of a natural gas plant. I did not see the Kaieteur News report talk about the plans for crime. However, this is the one area that needs to be addressed.
While national figures will tell a tale of major crimes down and cases being solved, there is a growing development that is holding communities hostage. Yes, it literally has people terrified of walking alone.
I can tell of Diamond and Golden Grove, and Grove and Craig.
Workers are afraid to walk through the streets. The robberies are taking place in front of persons. The robbers are on motorcycles, for easy getaways, and bicycles.
I read one story where the woman claimed she was robbed by someone sitting on a bridge combing his hair.
I saw a video of a woman this past week, thrown violently to the ground. She was walking and had just crossed the road, when a motorcycle pulled up alongside her. It appeared that her handbag was pulled and she was dragged and thrown in front of an oncoming car during the process. Fortunately, the car braked in time.
It appears that other drivers saw, but were powerless to do anything.
Yesterday, I read of a teen from West Demerara Secondary School being violently attacked by a robber while riding home from school. He suffered a fractured skull.
A social worker, wearing a hijab, was slashed on the face by a knife-wielding bandit last week during an attack.
The incidents will tell a story of bandits not caring who the victims are. A child, a Muslim woman, a domestic worker.
Recently, two sanitation workers from Puran Brothers were violently robbed of their phones and other possessions. The driver of the vehicle lost his wedding ring.
Do we need to go on with more incidents to illustrate the growing threats in our communities?
Across at Belle West, West Bank Demerara, a gang that preyed on working families by carrying out daytime burglaries was busted last week.
The fact of the matter is that in almost all the communities, little gangs are raising up.
It can be two little teenagers. It can be several.
I read one account of a woman yesterday who said she looks with suspicion at every person riding a bicycle and wearing a haversack.
As a media worker, I am in a state of constant alert. Driving to work, I am constantly checking side and rear-view mirrors and positioning the vehicle for quick acceleration. It is a mental thing. Coming home, my eyes are on dark spots.
Can we blame our people?
I spoke to police ranks and it is a problem. Many of the crimes go unreported.
I read yesterday of a woman in Sophia who is being threatened and calling the Turkeyen Police Station. ‘The vehicle is in the workshop. We can’t send a patrol’.
The police force remains under-equipped.
We are a small country and daily I shake my head in frustration. This Coalition to its credit has started moves to fix the police force. It has installed a number of specialist deputy commissioners, thus paving the way for constant promotions.
However, the daily shakedowns, the stops and the subtle, suggestive hints of ‘leff something nah’ continue to speak of a culture of bribery and corruption that is beyond sickening. I will continue to speak out. Better must come.
Recently, at Diamond, I was pulled over. I was doing a little over 60 km per hour and the police rank said I was speeding. I said yes, and can I get a break, as I am late for an assignment.
The rank, a young man I have never seen before, was respectful and said ‘please take your time, sir’. He is an exception.
So on one hand, we have young men…and teens, mainly, who are not willing to work, but stand ready to prey on the innocent. On the other, there is the under-staffed, under-equipped police force.
In the absence of an abundance of resources, how do we fix a growing problem?
I am sure that the police force is not unaware of the growing problem.
We cannot deny what is happening. Just go to the communities and talk to residents. There is a very real fear. Many will tell you it is the young gangs who smoke and prowl the area daily.
We have experimented with neighbourhood police groups. The fact is, I may be able to recognise one or two of the members of those groups. There should be more engagements between the police and residents.
I’ve said it before, and I wrote it so many times…the police can do so much better if the relations with the communities are better.
I have many police friends. I can call them. The respect is there. But if you speak to residents, they will tell you that they don’t trust the police.
Anecdotally, they will tell you stories of police ranks being hand in glove with criminals.
Information is passed and protection is given. It is all part of the system. Is there evidence?
Well, residents will tell you which ranks go to which drug yard regularly.
They will tell you who are the suspicious persons in the neighbourhood and who are the persons buying the stolen stuff.
The solving of crimes, the crime fight in general has to be a community-tackled one.
But the people will have to feel some level of comfort in dealing with police ranks and stations.
For all the cameras that we have installed around the city, at the station level, the need for more training is imperative. However, it will all be in vain if the culture continues to be one in which ranks seek to capitalise on every situation.
We all know how the game is played. Let’s not deny it.
Introspection may be the word of the week as we look to the future and demand that we have changes.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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