Brumell’s visit to Meten-Meer-Zorg was a bold approach to reducing crime and the fear of crime

Dear Editor,

Congratulations to Commissioner Leroy Brumell for visiting a crime hot spot with a team of senior members of the force and holding discussion with members of the community. It was a bold approach towards reducing crime and the fear of crime. Perhaps the paradigm has shifted. It caters for good police-public relations.

Police-community relations is nothing new. It stems from Sir Robert Peel’s belief that “the police are the public, and the public is the police.”

Miller and Hess (2002) define community policing as “A philosophy or orientation that emphasises working with citizens to solve crime-related problems and prevent crime.”

They note: “Community policing offers one avenue for making neighbourhoods safer. Community policing is not a programme or a series of programmes. It is a philosophy, a belief that working together, the police and the community can accomplish what neither can accomplish alone. The energy that results from community policing can be powerful. It is like the power of a finely tuned athletics team, with each member contributing to the total effort. Occasionally heroes may emerge, but victory depends on a team effort.”

One tool to help law enforcement tackle crime through problem solving is the crime triangle. It sits on three legs – the suspect, the victim and the location. Crime is presumed amenable to suppression if any of the three legs of the triangle is removed or neutralized. In the crime triangle location is a critical element, particularly in areas called hot spots. A hot spot could be a single address, a cluster of addresses, part of a street, an entire street or two or an intersection. Most times the police concentrate on the victims and the suspects and pay little attention to the locations.

The locations are where major issues and concerns relating to crime are operating. Crime Chief Seelall Persaud alluded to some of the issues and concerns in his presentation at Meten-Meer-Zorg. The issues that law enforcement personnel have to deal with are political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental.

Unless they are effectively handled crime will flourish. The police must not only be involved in solving crimes in the communities, but they must be involved in solving problems. The Americans call it community-oriented policing and problem-solving (COPPS).

Breidon (1998) suggests another way to view the significance of location. “I can’t think of two special interest groups more philosophically opposed to each other than hunters and animal rights activists, yet there are two things they totally agree upon: The species will survive the hunt; it will not survive loss of its habitat.

“What can policing learn from this basic principle of nature? Well if the ultimate goal is to eliminate the criminal species forever, surely the best way to do that is eliminate the habitat that spawns and sustains the species. Structured as it is, the criminal justice system puts 95 per cent of its resources into the hunt while the habitat is left almost untouched. We can never win that way, because the habitat never stops supplying new customers for the hunt.”

The Guyana Police Force has been doing quite a lot of work at various divisional locations. The West Coast Berbice location is leading the way. It started with Supt Stephen Mansell. His successor Assistant Superintendent Ramlochan continued the process.

The activities include community policing, station management, traffic advisory, divisional advisory, regional intelligence committee, neighbourhood police, youth clubs, open days, soft projects, hinterland intelligence committee and structured interactions with the various stakeholders. These activities have been fruitful and will continue to be so. They must be sustained and spread wider across all the police divisions.

On the other hand the Government of Guyana through the Citizens Security Programme – community action component successfully conducted several programmes at specific hot spots to make the communities safer and develop life skills for numerous members in the communities.

Like the activities of the police this programme must be intensified and cater for many more locations across the country.

Fraizer (2002) stresses, “Police need to act as problem solvers and peace makers in their communities. Police and citizens must work together if we are to develop long-term solutions to crime, and if we are to enhance trust between the police and communities they serve. Problems can best be eliminated when the community and government coordinate and cooperate, for example, police may be called repeatedly to a boarded up house to arrest trespassers. With interagency cooperation, the house could be rehabilitated and become an asset to neighbourhood, not a haven for criminal activity.”

The challenges faced by the police are numerous and defy any one-shot solution. However, the approach towards crime reduction and the fear of crime conducted by the Commissioner at Meten-Meer-Zorg should be replicated in hot spots across the various divisions. The approach will develop, trust, integrity and respect.

It will cater for greater public confidence in the police. If there is no public confidence in the police we will continue in many instances to have members of the public with eyes which will not see, ears which will not hear, and tongues which will not speak as it relates to crime.

The police need members of the community to see, to hear and to speak, thus, enabling them to be more proactive and conduct more intelligence-led policing. More community-oriented policing and problem-solving across the various divisions is a step in the right direction to reduce crime and the fear of crime.

Yours faithfully,
Clinton Conway
Assistant Commissioner
of Police (rtd)

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