Following another robbery in Bartica on Thursday in which a businessman lost over $500,000 in cash and jewellery, the Chairman of Region Seven, Holbert Knights yesterday expressed alarm at the situation and charged that the police have made “zero progress”.
With the February 17, 2008 massacre anniversary looming, residents say the police have been unable to capture the culprits although resources are available and reinforcements were brought in from Georgetown to help tackle the problem.
In Thursday’s attack, the lone gunman escaped with close to half a million dollars in cash and a quantity of jewellery after holding up Banie Ramcharran in his Lot 6 Byderabo home as his trembling wife hid in the bathroom.
Recounting his ordeal to this newspaper yesterday Ramcharran called `Ringo’ said that he returned home just before 7 pm and after a short conversation, he went and sat in the backyard while his wife proceeded to the bathroom.
“A bandit came up with a gun and tell me don’t move, stay right deh”, he recalled adding that the weapon was later placed to his head and he was instructed to put his hands up. He was then led into the house. The man had a hat pulled down over his eyes and used his jersey to hide the rest of his face.
He said that knowing fully well that his wife had gone to take a bath, he deliberately started speaking loudly so as to alert her to the situation.
However this did not work but when the woman spotted the gunman and the weapon she fled back to the bathroom where she hid. The gunman had not seen her.
Ramcharran stated that the gunman led him to both bedrooms where he was instructed to tumble and hand over valuables.
The gunman got away with $495,000 and an undisclosed amount of jewellery, he added.
Before leaving, the gunman became suspicious when the pipe in the bathroom was suddenly turned off and he asked the businessman for his wife.
Ramcharran told this newspaper that he tried to distract the gunman by telling him she was out and was due to return at anytime but the gunman insisted that someone was in there. He pulled the curtain twice for the bandit, hiding his wife in the process, before the man left.
Stabroek News understands that the man then ran down a track to the riverside where he boarded a waiting boat. Police said in a release last evening that they are investigating the incident. Up to press time no arrests had been made.
The businessman pointed out that this is the third time in three weeks that he has been robbed and was surprised at the police’s prompt response on Thursday night.
According to him, ranks at the Bartica Police Station were alerted on the other two occasions but they never turned up.
Crime Chief Seelall Persaud said yesterday that there was no upsurge in crime in the “usually quiet community”, even as residents and Regional Chairman Knights dispute this.
Persaud told Stabroek News when contacted that they have received reports of incidents and pointed out that the police there are equipped to handle the situation and have so far conducted searches as well as held and questioned persons.
“They (the Bartica police) are dealing with it” he told this newspaper when asked if any additional ranks have or will be sent to the area to help.
One resident said that there have been at least three armed robberies for the week and the police are continuing to deny that there is a problem.
The woman said that people are so scared that they ensure they are within the confines of their home once night steps in. In the daytime she added, things are normal.
Another resident lashed out at the police for their inability to capture the gunmen, one of whom is a known character, even though the area is only one square mile.
“Why the police cannot apprehend these people… They need to change their tactics and go undercover man. The police are too afraid to go out even when people passing on information to them”, the man said, the anger evident in his voice.
He stated that every other night, a robbery is being committed pointing out that one of the perpetrators is a known criminal who is on bail for robbery. The resident said that the police seem unable to capture him, but the man is being seen regularly.
According to the man, about eight ranks from Georgetown arrived in the community several days ago but the robberies are still being committed.
To make matter worse, the resident added, the community policing group which was formed after the 2008 massacre and outfitted with a boat and engine, a motor cycle and vehicle to do patrols, has not been functioning.
Stabroek News understands that a watch tower built in the station’s compound after the massacre has also not been in use and the station is locked up after midnight.
Meanwhile the Regional Seven Chairman yesterday expressed alarm “at the very sudden upsurge in crime in Bartica”.
In a release yesterday, Knights said that over the last two weeks, there were seven armed robberies.
“Save for the February 17 2008 incident, Barticians have never before been subjected to such high levels of criminality. Residents are once again, living in fear. There seems not to be a day or two would pass without some family wailing and anguishing over the loss of their hard earned cash, valuables and especially the fear and apprehension, thinking that here again we have to feel helpless and vulnerable”, Knights stated.
He also pointed out that the police have since made “zero progress” in either apprehending any of these criminals or even by their presence cause a reduction in these crimes.
On behalf of the “frightened and heavily traumatized residents’, Knights called on all stakeholders; the Government and the Joint Services, to step up to the challenge and take the necessary and appropriate action.
He noted that there needs to be some new strategies and different approaches that will see the apprehension of the criminals.
According to the release since the massacre there has been a significant presence of members of the Joint Services in Bartica and it was only on Saturday last, that the Commissioner of Police Henry Greene was approached on the current situation and additional ranks were immediately dispatched to the area.
However, it was noted the presence of these ranks has not been a deterrent to the criminals who continue to commit crimes.
“We need action; we need to feel safe and comforted knowing that our policy makers and security forces are not forsaking us, or leaving us to the mercies of criminals. We are too close to having to live through again, that night in February of 2008”, Knights stated.