Commissioner of Police Mr Henry Greene reported last week that there had been 96 murders this year so far compared with 77 murders for a similar period – about 250 days – last year. This gave an average rate of about two murders every five days.
The annualised murder rate, therefore, would be slightly higher than in 2002 when the troubles erupted on the East Coast Demerara. The average rate for the last decennium, 2000-2009, has been the highest in the country’s history and the rate for 2010, so far, is consistent with that trend.
The Guyana Police Force employs an informal classification of murders – disorderly, domestic, execution, felony and undetermined. There have been 32 ‘disorderly’ murders compared to nine for the same period last year; 13 ‘domestic’ murders, compared to 19 last year; nine ‘execution’ murders compared to two last year and 21 ‘felony’ murders compared to 13 last year.
The Commissioner, reporting that the single greatest number of ‘disorderly’ murders – 14 out of 32 – occurred in the hinterland, explained that “There have been several murders within the last two weeks in the ‘bush,’ most of them arising from people drinking or arguing – either stabbing… or beating each other.” This is an alarming fact. The Force’s amalgamated ‘E&F’ division – comprising much of the ‘bush’ – has a population of only about 115, 000 but had a body count of 22 murders for the year so far. ‘A’ and ‘C’ divisions, comprising Georgetown and East Demerara (Bank and Coast), with three times that population, recorded 47 murders.
Robberies under arms, disturbingly, were responsible for 21 murders countrywide out of 506 incidents. Firearms were used in 356 – more than one armed robbery every day – and other weapons were used in the rest. The Commissioner, admitting that only 57 firearms had been seized so far for 2010, surmised that “the general trend in the seizures and [in] robbery under arms suggests that there are not that many firearms around. We have evidence where persons have been renting from others.”
This, of course, is a non sequitur. It might be true that gun rentals are increasing but the lower rate of seizures could be the result of a lower level of vigilance by the police or a higher level of concealment by the gunmen.
The Police Force clearly has no comprehensive strategy to reduce the amount of murders taking place every week. Not in the hinterland where, every month, about three ‘disorderly’ murders occur. Not in the rural communities where monthly ‘domestic’ murders occur. Not in the narcotics underworld where ‘execution’ murders still occur.
Head of the Police Force’s Criminal Investigation Department Assistant Commissioner Mr Seelall Persaud told the Stabroek News a few months ago that some executions have been “drug-related.” Yet, illegal narcotics and firearms continue to pour through the country’s unguarded borders.
The Commissioner attempted to assure the public that the Police Force remained “postured” to deal with serious crime. The release of the data at this time was intended to show, as a police statement suggested, “that there is no alarming increase in criminal activities and… that efforts are ongoing to make certain that the law enforcement agencies, remain on top of the situation and that a stable environment is maintained.”
True, there has been no surge in murders of which there have been 1,527 since 2000. The impression in the public’s mind, however, has not been one of confidence in the police but of despair that it has been incapable of reducing the murder rate. The facts prove that, as far as murders are concerned, the Force is failing miserably.