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….Slowe warns Guyana’s security in a perilous’ state
–says time to address the root cause through consultation, collaboration
By Svetlana Marshall
Though the Guyana Police Force continues to report a decline in serious crimes in Guyana, Assistant Commissioner of Police (Ret’d) Paul Slowe is convinced that the Force’s statistics is not reflective of the situation on the ground.
Days before proceeding on pre-retirement leave in March, then Commissioner of Police (ag) Nigel Hoppie reported that there was an 18.8 percent reduction in serious crimes in 2021 when compared to the previous year.
“There has been a concomitant 16.6 per cent decrease in murders with figures of 157 in 2020 and 131 in 2021 and a 31.5 per cent decrease in robberies under arms with figures of 888 in 2020 and 608 in 2021. Of note, last year’s figures were the best in the last decade,” Hoppie disclosed during the Police Officers’ Conference. However, there was a slight increase in the number of rape cases reported in 2021 when compared to 2020. According to Hoppie, there were 204 recorded cases of rape in 2021, compared to 202 in 2020.
Further, the then Commissioner of Police (ag) said as of March 8, 2022, there was a 16 percent decrease in serious crimes compared to the same period in 2021.
But according to Slowe, who spoke to the Village Voice Newspaper as a concerned citizen, there are many serious crimes that have gone unreported due to the 11 categories established by the Force.
Citing two examples, he said while cattle rustling is a serious crime being committed in Regions 5, 6 and 9, and drug trafficking, another major concern, they are not considered serious crimes, and as such the percentages on serious crimes exclude them. Conversely, Slowe contended that while kidnapping is not a major issue in Guyana, it is considered by the Force to be a serious crime, and therefore impacts the statistics reported. That aside, he said on a daily basis, there are reports of murders and robberies being circulated on the internet, particularly on popular social media platform – Facebook.
According to him, security in Guyana is in a “perilous” state.
He said the situation is such that the US Department of State, in late March, had caused to advise US citizens to reconsider travel to Guyana.
“Violent crime, including murder and armed robbery, is common, especially at night. Local police often lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents,” the US said in its country summary on Guyana.
The US State Department said if citizens so desire to travel to Guyana, they should be vigilant when visiting banks or ATMs, avoid walking or driving at nights, do not physically resist any robbery attempt, and do not display signs of wealth, such as wearing expensive watches or jewelry.
POOR CRIME FIGHTING CAPABILITY
Slowe said to compound the situation, the Police Force lacks the requisite resources to combat crime, particularly the more advanced crimes committed with the aid of technology.
Cognizant of the challenges facing the Guyana Police Force, President Irfaan Ali, during the Officers’ Conference, said his Government is moving to establish a Regional Police Academy and a digital ticketing system that can result in the suspension of licenses for those bent on violating the Traffic Laws of the country.
Underscoring the importance of having a ‘Smart Police Force’ that would intensify the use of Information, Communication, Technologies (ICT) to advance its work, President Ali said ICT is particularly important in the areas of monitoring and intelligence gathering.
“Crime must not become a bug bearer for development,” the President said, as he iterated that “it cannot be business as usual when it comes to policing.”
“The Guyana Police Force must up its game,” he added.
President Ali said as part of Government’s plan to improve public security, investments will be made in the area of technology to ensure a system of rapid and resolute response to crime. The Safe City Programme, he pointed out, will be expanded.
“In order to boost crime fighting we are resuscitating and expanding the safe city programme. This year we have allocated $2.5B to expand the Safe City Programme beyond the boundaries of Georgetown. Our objective is to eventually connect the entire country with CCTV cameras,” he explained.
However, Slowe believes that much more is required.
He said to effectively combat crime, the Force must first understand the primary contributing factors, noting that this can be done through consultation and collaboration. Some theorists believe that crime is shaped by factors external to the individual – their experiences within the neighbourhood, the peer group and the family.
He said here in Guyana the unemployment rate in the country may be a driving force responsible for the breakdown of the social fabric.
Slowe said to truly understand the situation on the ground, the Guyana Police Force would be required to consult with citizens and other stakeholders at the various levels on the factors and methods that can be used to bring down the numbers.
“In the Guyanese context, I think the powers that be need to sit and analyze it carefully. Why is it we are having these crimes. It is due to unemployment? It is due to other social factors? And until and unless you sit down and you identify what might be the drivers behind this social phenomenon you wouldn’t be dealing with it in a proper manner,” he told this newspaper.
He added: “If you want the problem solved, you have to sit with all of the stakeholders and carefully analyze what is causing this problem, and then you come with measures to address the problem. I think that is the way you have to go.”
Slowe told this newspaper that it requires more than building police stations and outposts. He underscored the importance of a well trained and equipped Police Force that would be proactive. Further, he highlighted the need for improve Police-Community relations that would result in two-way exchange of information.