Despite these reports, the Commanders in charge of various police divisions are insisting that there is a zero tolerance campaign on firecrackers and extensive action was taken throughout these regions to deal with the problem.
Over a thousand of the firecrackers were seized during the Deepavali weekend and several persons have since been charged, police officials told Stabroek News. However, residents still are not confident that the situation is being well-handled and believe that it will worsen with the approaching Christmas season.
Residents from East and West Demerara, Georgetown and several Berbice villages have reported that despite the ban on firecrackers, persons seemed to have easy access to them. Firecrackers, they said, were available and well in use days before Deepavali (the Hindu festival of lights).
Two Thursdays ago, at the starting point of the annual Deepavali Motorcade at Campbellville, there was an occasional bang from a firecracker. Police were present at this event but this did not deter those persons from using the small explosives.
“They start light these things off since like two days before Deepavali,” a resident of Craig, East Bank Demerara (EBD) told Stabroek News last Sunday. “On Deepavali day and night itself everything got worse…I try calling the police at Grove two times and both time they told me that a patrol was out and that someone would be running the area.”
It wasn’t until after 8pm on Deepavali night (Friday) that police showed up in the Craig area where they seized several firecrackers and took about four persons into custody. However, the lighting of the firecrackers continued long after police had visited the location, the resident said.
She further explained that the shops in the area were not selling the illegal items. People from outside the village, according to her, had been walking around the area early last week selling the items. “I was in a shop through my street when one man come and offer the shop owner to sell him some squibs and whistling thunder and those kinda things and the shop owner told him no and sent him away but apparently other people in the area didn’t do the same,” she said.
‘No nonsense approach’
Commander of Police A Division Assistant Commis-sioner George Vyphuis stressed that a zero tolerance campaign is out against firecrackers.
Fighting this particular issue, he said, is not without its difficulties. One sad thing in the whole scenario, Vyphuis noted, is that it’s hard to tell the difference between the bangs from firecrackers and those caused by gunshots. He also said that police cannot be at every doorstep all the time but once perpetrators are caught they will be taken before the courts.
There were reports coming in to police in his division over the weekend, Vyphuis said, and a patrol would respond to these. In some instances, perpetrators were caught. On Friday, he explained, several persons were held in the Grove, Craig and Friendship areas on the EBD and over 1,000 firecrackers were seized. Five persons have since been charged and police will not let up on their fight against ridding society of the firecrackers, he said. “And we will continue,” Vyphuis added. “This lawlessness should stop…we are taking a no-nonsense approach to this.”
Meanwhile, similar complaints about firecrackers were made by East Coast Demerara residents. An Enmore resident, who declined to have his name published, told this newspaper that squibs we being “pelted about the place since Thursday night”.
“Imagine me and these group of teenagers get it out cause they lighting this thing and pelting it in front my yard and then Friday night when I light diya they started throwing it on the diya…I get so mad with them,” he said.
Commander of ‘B’ Division, Stephen Merai told Stabroek News that several persons were arrested over the Deepavali weekend for selling and using the firecrackers. He said though that no charges have been made.
The commander said the campaign against firecrackers has been intensified and would continue throughout the Christmas season.
According to him the majority of the devices are coming through the backtrack route from Suriname. He pointed out that there is no restriction on the firecrackers in Suriname and that many persons do it as a trade.
Not many reports
Complaints about firecrackers came from residents of several villages in Police D Division (West Demerara). However, Assistant Commis-sioner Balram Persaud, who is responsible for that division, told Stabroek News recently that not many reports were made to police.
Ranks in his division, Persaud said, are practicing intelligence-led policing to tackle this problem and are still raiding businesses. Just recently, he said, three persons were charged with having a trunk load of the prohibited items.
The Community Policing Groups (CPGs) are very involved in the fight against firecrackers, Persaud said. As long as police can identify who are selling these items, he added, they will be charged and placed before the court. He stressed that many adults have been behaving irresponsibly by allowing their children access to firecrackers despite knowing that the items are illegal.
Persaud also said that he was recently informed by a regional health official that a child sustained injuries to the hand after holding a firecracker too long after he had lit it. These items are dangerous, he stressed, and they will not be tolerated.
Persaud said that during Deepavali he was at Wales and that area was very quiet. No squibs, he said, were heard or seen by him. Even in the area where he lives in West Demerara, Persaud further said, there were no firecrackers in use.
However, several residents from the West Demerara spoke out about their weekend of unrest because of the rampant use of firecrackers.
Sahadeo Bates, who lives in Uitvlugt, wrote a letter (published in the last edition of the Sunday Stabroek) relating his horrible Deepavali experience due to the use of firecrackers in the neighbourhood. Bates said that the noise from the squibs terrified his one-month-old daughter and his dogs.
He added that his neighbour and his wife had confrontations with different groups of boys about their squib throwing.
A Leonora resident related a similar scenario yesterday. The woman said that she had more than one confrontation with groups of boys in her village about the lighting and throwing of squibs. The woman said that on Friday she called police at the Leonora once and was promised that a patrol would check the area.
“If I tell you,” the woman said, “I still waiting on that patrol to come…and this is why a lot of people don’t bother calling the station because you does hardly ever get any help that does do anything.”