Georgetown, Guyana – (November 10, 2016) Reducing the high incidence of violent crime continues to be a priority for the administration and President David Granger said that his Government will continue to work with the security forces to ensure the safety of all Guyanese.
Among the changes to be instituted are the tightening of border security and control to prevent the transport of illegal guns and narcotics, more street patrols, the presence of mounted police in the hinterland and riverine areas of the country, collaboration between the Guyana Police Force (GPF) and the Community Policing Groups (CPGs), provision of assets such as drones for border monitoring, aerial surveillance, reduction of cash transactions and the implementation of a ‘Smart City’ programme, which will see cameras being installed along strategic points across the country, the yearly review of gun license and security sector reform. The President in an invited comment, today, at the Ministry of the Presidency said that he is focused on comprehensive crime fighting strategies that address the root causes of crime to ensure long term results.
Addressing cross border crime, he said, “When you hear about gun crimes; Guyana doesn’t manufacture guns. When you hear about narcotics trafficking; Guyana doesn’t manufacture cocaine but these are crimes, which have a very serious impact so we have to deal with other countries in the international community and in the Caribbean Basin. We have to deal with the interpersonal violence, street crimes and these crimes are sometimes fueled by the same narcotics or guns, which are imported from outside… There are a lot of youngsters, who grew up through the ‘troubles’ and still believe that the solution to their problems or whatever they want to achieve in their life is through the barrel of a gun… We have a strategy and part of that strategy is to limit the inflow and impact of transnational crimes by securing our borders and by working with communities. Crime is complex and we have a complex strategy to deal with that.”
President Granger, who continues to be directly involved in public security planning, chairing the weekly meeting of the National Security Committee, said that this issue has become a daily preoccupation.
Meanwhile, Minister of Public Security, Mr. Khemraj Ramjattan said that his Ministry has engaged the Department of State of the United States for their assistance in the provision of assets, which can aid in the control of the country’s borders.
“It is especially important that we get more resources to ensure that that kind of trafficking in arms is halted but of course that is difficult. We recently spoke to the Americans in the State Department. I was there and I pleaded with them that we need strengthening of our border controls under the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative. They have indicated that there will be some support but as to how much and what it will be, I don’t know yet. I did make the call for things like drones, aerial surveillance in that border area especially,” he said.
Additionally, works have begun for the establishment of Police outposts in those areas as well the introduction of mounted branches in various parts across the country. The Government is also exploring the possibility of watch towers that will feature systems that can detect illegal activities across the border areas.
With the Government working on ensuring that the instances of crimes are reduced, a priority is limiting the access to illegal firearms and managing the issuance of gun licences. The administration will embark on a review of the issuance of gun licenses to private citizens, especially now that information has surfaced that legal guns are also involved in gun related crimes.
Minister Ramjattan, noting that the system for the issuance of firearm licences during the previous administration was ‘bad’, said that the actual enforcement of the existing prohibitions against firearm usage, the licensing of firearms, the abuse of firearms, and the determination of who is qualified to be licensed, is now being diligently embarked upon. One of these measures will be a yearly review of licence holders, which will be conducted by the Commissioner of Police and the Firearm Licensing Board.
Commissioner of Police, Mr. Seelall Persaud, who also spoke to the Ministry of the Presidency, supported the Minister’s point noting that it is important that licensing is carefully managed since gun related crimes are committed with the use of both licensed and unlicensed firearms.
“Licensed firearms, for example, we have had murders, domestic violence and we have had licensed firearms being stolen, getting into the wrong hands and therefore, becoming unlicensed. There also might be persons who would have had large mining operations and a lot of security but those operations have been shut down and they still have those firearms even though they are no longer in operation. A firearm is a lethal weapon. It is designed to kill and maim people and there are also instances. As it is right now, we have a murder investigation going on and one of the lines of inquiry is that the licensed firearm holder for a number of arms for a security company is renting those guns to persons, who are not licensed or authorised to carry them,” Mr. Persaud said.
Expanding on what is being done to deal with the number of illegal firearms that are being used in robberies and other violent crimes, he noted that the President has been making major moves to strengthen border security and the Police Force has been moving to prevent those firearms from coming into the country.
“The development of the Force will continue certainly with our increased intelligence capacity and increased response capability. We will get there. We need to change our gun touting culture and this violence culture and we can change that and one of the best ways of doing that is by education and we are exploring ways in which that can be done,” he said.
Minister Ramjattan also believes that ordinary citizens also have a role to play in this regard. “I am urging that anybody who knows that anyone has a firearm, inform the police. We, by our silence, allow violence. I want more of these people being interdicted that way so we can have less guns out there. All of these are methods we have to control the guns because the trafficking of weapons into the country is always going to be a difficult thing because of our limited resources and until such time as we can get more resources we will have to live with the minimum of efforts that we are making now -which is really maximum effort- but minimum in the sense of limited resources so it is especially important that people appreciate all that we are doing,” Minister Ramjattan said.
Patrols and community involvement
Also on the agenda for the Government is the increase of street patrols by the GPF as well as the building of partnerships and the strengthening of Community Policing Groups and the Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs).
“We will get more patrols on the roads especially in Georgetown where these robberies with guns are used all the time and so it requires more assets, more patrols, more policemen. We managed to get from the supplier recently a number of motorbikes, ATVS, SUVS and minibuses as part of the allocation for this year’s budget so we are going to utilise those assets to do increased patrols,” Minister Ramjattan said.
The Minister also said that community policing groups must act in a role of ‘social informers’ and aid in reporting and arrest of criminal elements in community. “We are working with them to provide information as to who and who are the bad guys that might be doing this and springing upon people and creating this sense of fear… It is the community out there that really know these fellows and we want them to speak out even if they want to give anonymous information,” Minister Ramjattan said.
The Ministry has embarked also on a series of programmes which targets the at risk youths, with the aim of offering skills training and a livelihood.
“This programme has commenced whereby at risk youths in 20 communities are going to be identified so as to divert their idleness away from the negatives and then probably crime, on to specialised training, whether being a mason or carpenter or joiner or whatever and we are going to send them to school. Each one of the 20 communities has to have 55 identified at-risk youth, who are going to go through that programme and they are going to be paid a US$50 or US$75 per month to take care of their expenses to ensure that they go to the school,” the Minister said.
President David Granger, in a recording of ‘The Public Interest’, earlier today, said that while the Government is doing everything possible to ensure that there are significant changes in the state of security and safety, there seems to be an ongoing campaign to paint the Government and the Police Force in a negative light.
He said that while he is satisfied that the Force has made some headway with regard to solving many of the high profile and violent crimes that there are rogue elements, who have borne witness to the period of the ‘troubles’ and are not suitable to serve in that.
“I am suspicious…that there are some persons who are committing crimes to show that the Police Force and Government are weak. We don’t know for sure what is taking place but many of these crimes have their origin in the weakening of the Police Force in the early days and so we have a very serious problem on our hands. We reckon that the decision that we took to bring the British Security Sector Reform Programme here is the right one because we cannot proceed in this country with an unreformed Guyana Police Force and some of the actions, which are taking place convince me that reform has to take place and we are going to do that,” he said.
The Minister of Public Security urged the ranks of the disciplined forces too, to be good examples and professionals in their duties, as he noted that he is advocating for a better life for them.
“I am urging my police officers, my ranks to be professional in their duties. Do not become rogue cops and be involved in criminal activities. I understand the salaries need to be increased and our present circumstances do not allow for that but it will come in the future. I pleaded for a grand allocation for the Police Force and so forth and I hope we get it to improve things. We, at the Governmental level, have to do our part and we are trying to arrange some house lots and other benefits for some of them… We would like the Guyanese people to appreciate that the Government and the Ministry is doing everything possible at this time,” Minister Ramjattan said.