Slipping into darkness

The blatant nature of some recent crimes is not just jaw-dropping but fear-inducing; that is, for those of us who are still not inured to the dreadful unending violence. Investigations are ongoing and other sweet nothings offered by the Guyana Police Force (soon to be the Guyana Police Service) provide little comfort and absolutely no confidence. In fact, more often than not, those investigations and the evidence garnered as a result fail to win convictions when the police do manage to get the case and the suspected criminals as far as the courts.

Speaking of which, one of four recent crimes that caused us to take pause occurred in the vicinity of the High Court, a location where you can usually find police officers. It resulted in a minibus driver, Lex Carpen, 57, of Mahaicony, being shot and robbed and a bystander Cherelee Cosbert being shot. The robbers were on a motorcycle.

The second also involved a minibus driver, but in this instance, he was shot by a passenger. According to reports, Desmond Marcus, 59, was shot in his face by a passenger in the wee hours of Monday morning in South Ruimveldt, after he and the passenger were involved in an argument over the fare. (A bus fare to South Ruimveldt is now $100.)  Marcus explained that the passenger who shot him had joined the bus with another person and indicated that he would pay the two fares, but then only paid one. An argument ensued and he shot Marcus.

In the third recent blatant crime, which occurred on Sunday night last, taxi service owner and dominoes enthusiast Orin Joseph was robbed and murdered in South Ruimveldt. This crime was reportedly committed by two men on a motorcycle who attacked him under the cover of darkness during a blackout in the area.

The fourth and most heinous was the gruesome attack last Friday morning on 90-year-old Millicent Prince-Cummings, who was beaten and sexually assaulted as she took her usual early morning walk near her home at Cove and John, East Coast Demerara. The elderly woman may have assumed that she would have been safe because of her age and obvious lack of wealth. She was wrong. The perpetrator/s took a chance on being caught attacking the old woman—her body was found in a populated area and not far from the police station; or perhaps not. Many citizens have complained about tardy responses by the police to reports of crimes being committed and often when a criminal is caught in the act it is when the police happen to be in the vicinity.

It is obvious that Guyana’s rapid descent down the slippery slope of the darkness of crime is continuing virtually unchecked, despite the police’s annual effort to bamboozle us with statistics. In January we were apprised thus: armed robberies were up 21%; there were 1,065 reports in 2012 and 879 in 2011. Murders were up 5%; there were 137 murders reported in 2012 and 130 in 2011. Meanwhile, the police seized 111 firearms during raids in 2012 ‒ 28 pistols, 39 revolvers, 31 shotguns and 13 rifles. In the release which revealed these figures, police had said that serious crime was down 1%.

Just four months prior to this, however, statistics from the police with regard to the situation at the end of August had revealed that murders were down 12% and armed robberies were up by 23%. According to the police, up to the end of August 2012, 81 murders had been reported as opposed to 92 as at August 31, 2011. For the same two comparative periods, armed robbery reports were 670 as against 544. However serious crime was down by 3%, the police said.

Various measures have been undertaken by the police with varying degrees of success, but none has brought about any lasting feeling of security or the long-term crime curb so desperately needed here. Among these measures is the National Community Policing Organisation, a fairly expensive undertaking, which has satellites in almost every area in the country. Yet it fails to imbue citizens with any sort of confidence.

Of course, while it has been opposed by the powers that be, it is obvious that only a complete reform/overhaul of the way policing is conducted in Guyana will suffice. New name + old habits is a very poor formula for change. Ask any politician.

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