Preventing crime and reducing fear of crime, are both central to APNU’s objectives for restoring safe communities. One of the most significant innovations in criminology in recent years has been the discovery that the decay of day-to-day civility, relates directly to criminality. For a long while attention was focused almost exclusively upon serious crime — robbery, assault or murder. More minor crimes; forms of public disorder; uncouth, churlish and debauched behaviour from those persons society looks up to; and the poor example being set by people in high office who should know better, tend to have a cumulative effect and in time create new behavioural norms that can only be described as deviant. Institutionalized criminality of the type we see here in Guyana signals to citizens and would-be investors alike that the country is unsafe. Fearful citizens stay off the streets, avoid certain locations and curtail their normal activities and associations. Many foreigners, including would-be tourists and investors, avoid Guyana like the plague as do many of our Caricom brothers and sisters. No longer are Guyanese respected or accepted as normal law-abiding people.
The word went out even before confirmation from WikiLeaks revelations that Guyana appears to have lost its moral compass and is a dangerous place to be. Ultimately the result for a country whose fabric of life and social interaction has been systematically undermined, is increasing vulnerability to an influx of more disorderly behaviour and serious crime if business-as-usual is allowed to prevail.
The implications of this thesis should be clearly understood. Officialdom is actively normalizing deviant behaviour so that in time the law-abiding, principled Guyanese could become as rare as the Penny Black stamp. To turn this worrying situation around is not as complex a matter as we may think. It does not mean increasing the powers of the police to sweep undesirables and deviants off the streets or from behind desks.
It means that a new political dispensation is required using education, persuasion, counselling and the power of example with arraignment as a last resort. A law-abiding civil administration will set the tone for a root and branch change in crime and community.
In order to work, partnerships between government agencies, the criminal justice system, local civil associations and community organizations have to be inclusive — all economic, political, ethnic and religious groups must be involved.
A government for national unity, the private sector and other stakeholders can act together to help repair social decay. Such a strategy does not mean denying the links between unemployment, poverty and crime. Rather, the struggle against these social ills should be coordinated with community-based approaches to crime prevention.
Solving Guyana’s crime problem begins and ends with the creation of the political will to stop the rot and recreate an environment which discourages and censures deviant behaviour at all levels of society.
F Hamley Case