Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan has assured government that steps are being taken to address the spike in crime, and this includes increasing the number of police officers on patrol.
This is according to Minister of State Joseph Harmon, who during his weekly post-Cabinet press briefing yesterday said that Ramjattan embarked on a two-day visit to Berbice; his first official visit to any police division since he took office.
Harmon said Ramjattan briefed Cabinet members on Tuesday on the recent spike in violent crime, which is of concern to the government. The minister gave Cabinet the assurance that every step would be taken to ensure that citizens are comfortable in their homes and businesses can operate in a safe atmosphere and that he is working very closely with the Guyana Police Force on this, Harmon said.
Ramjattan, he said, has also advised that immediate steps would be taken to ensure increased police patrols and that resources previously identified for community policing groups would be directed to the police force.
Harmon also said policemen and women who were employed in work that was not central to the core function of the police force, would also be put on patrol duty to beef up the numbers out there and ensure better responses and reactions to 911 calls.
“This, of course, is a tall order. As you know we inherited a situation from the previous administration which while we are working to correct we have to look forward to ensure that we provide Guyanese people with the atmosphere and security that they require,” Harmon said.
Ramjattan will spend the next two days in Berbice visiting all police stations, ensuring that the police in that division are provided with the needed resources to fight crime in the streets and reduce the incidents of piracy.
Asked whether Ramjattan indicated why he chose Berbice for his first visit instead of Georgetown where the crime rate is higher, Harmon said it was because of the wider variety of crimes in that area. “He wanted to address the issue of piracy and this dictated his choice and does not say he does not find that all of the divisions important,” Harmon said.
GINA last evening reported Ramjattan as saying in a meeting with Executives of the Upper Corentyne Chamber of Commerce that though fishermen will be allowed to go out to sea with their firearms, when they return, the police will take charge of the weapons and ammunition. The procedure will be repeated when the
fishermen go back to fish.
“I am keen on something like that because when you are out on the ocean there it’s like the olden times in America, like you (are) out on the west and you have only a six shooter revolver to defend yourself,” the minister said.
GINA said that he further explained that the ministry has to have practical solutions because measures such as having the “Coast Guard vessels watching how you fish” would not be possible as it would be expensive, “So too is having helicopters in various parts of Berbice to respond to calls from fishing boats….just the elementary helicopter costs millions much less the sophisticated type,” the minister said.
“What we would need are some practical solutions,” the minister said as he identified measures such as ensuring better response time by the police and coast guard units. In this instance the minister noted that the latter’s metal shark boats will be put to use. He said according to GINA that efforts will also be made to ensure that boats are equipped with radio systems so that their positions could be tracked.
GINA said that Ramjattan also told the gathering that underutilised vehicles issued to Community Policing Groups (CPGs) are being transferred to the Guyana Police Force (GPF).
He disclosed that his ministry will be delivering to the Force, 38 vehicles that were handed over to CPGs by the last administration. These were underutilised by the CPGs, and will be better used by the police force which is not only in need of vehicles, but also “the first line of defence for public security.”
GINA said that he explained further that these vehicles will be transferred to those divisions where crime rates have spiked. The Minister also urged care of the vehicles saying that he has visited several police stations and witnessed the state of vehicles just under three years old.
Within the last few weeks there has been an increased number of gunpoint robberies and murders. However, Crime Chief Wendell Blanhum told this newspaper over the weekend that statistics show an overall decrease in serious crimes.
He said that the police, through increased patrols, roadblocks, raids and other crime fighting initiatives, have successfully managed to keep gun-related crimes down. He said too that the type of robberies being reported in the media has created an impression that there is an increase in crime.
“There are isolated cases which are being glamorized… and that gives the perception that there is an increase but then the stats tell you a different story…,” he told Stabroek News.