In the aftermath of the bloody February 23, 2002, prison break this country was caught in the throes of a crime spree that had up to that point been unprecedented. The sound of gunfire, which some citizens had never heard in their lives outside of a film setting, became the latest noise nuisance. High-speed chases through the city, kidnappings, the phantom killer squad, the various gangs, executions, drug-turf wars, robberies, the disappearance of army guns, the targeting of law enforcement officers, the targeting of informants – we had them all and then some.
While according to the Collins English Dictionary, a crime spree is a series of crimes committed in quick succession, or a high frequency of criminal activity to the extent that the activity appears almost continuous, often involves the same offender and covers a short period of time without a cooling off period, ours extended over several years. With the efficacy of the police force in doubt, the army was called upon to help maintain law and order in the society. At one point, it appeared that the country had gone to hell and perhaps it had.
Clearly embarrassed by the lack of perspicacity on the part of its police force, but appearing resolute about bringing an end to the chaos, the government threw several plans, some regurgitated, on the table. There was to be a US Drug Enforcement Administration office here, the police force would be reformed, the installation of closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras was mulled as were other initiatives to aid in security. Today, all that has panned out has been the installation of CCTV, but even that has been a major disappointment to citizens.
Not a single crime has been solved with the use of the much-vaunted CCTV. Or, if these things have worked to the advantage of the police, it is still a closely guarded secret. Observers believe that the equipment, said to be worth over $50 million, is of poor quality, providing the same sort of useless, shadowy footage like many of the privately installed security cameras ‒ or they may just be duds. Or worse yet, that which is recorded cannot be used because it is damning to persons with connections.
While the incidence of murders and robberies decreased somewhat after 2005, the situation never went back to what it was prior to 2002. By this time, there were just too many guns in circulation. Word on the street was that guns could be rented for “a job” – whether it was armed robbery or murder ‒ so that the criminally minded did not have to find the money to buy one when they needed to use it. Furthermore, it appeared that there were enough to go around if they were so inclined. Talk of some police officers being complicit in the execution of some of these crimes also spread. Corruption, fraud and bribery having assumed epic proportions, it appeared that whoever had the most money (to give, that is) was safe from prosecution.
From then to now, crime has been like the tide – ebbing and flowing. Frighteningly, the reason for its ebb and flow seems to have flummoxed those in charge of holding it at bay. There was the January 2008 execution of 11 men, women and children at Lusignan, East Coast Demerara. It still seems to be anybody’s guess as to exactly why this occurred and why that community was selected. Still to be explained also is the mowing down of 12 men at Bartica in February 2008 and the slaughtering four months later of eight miners at Lindo Creek. Top these off with the burgeoning numbers of domestic violence deaths, murders during the execution of robberies and other crimes and the whole horrific picture is laid bare.
At present, there is flow of murders and armed robberies. The tide began around July and it does not seem to have peaked as yet. It is crime time and fear stalks the land as the untouchables rack up more statistics and the ambivalence of the authorities reigns. Sadly, for all our ranting, there will be no change until there is real police reform, until true justice is meted out without fear or favour and until there is a concerted effort to prevent youths from joining the undesirables. There is no plan in sight for any of this at the moment.