City to beef up security at markets after L Seepersaud Maraj heist

-MMC says followed standard procedure

Andrew Foo

As police continue to investigate the daring heist in which millions were stolen from a Stabroek Market jewellery store, the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) yesterday announced that security at the municipal markets is being amplified.

The owners of L Seepersaud Maraj and Sons jewellery store discovered on Tuesday that their stall had been broken into and their vault was cut open. The perpetrators made off with millions of dollars in gold and diamond jewellery.

The robbery, which is suspected to have taken place on Monday night, has raised questions about the security available at the market, for which the M&CC bears responsibility.

Chief Constable Andrew Foo, at a press briefing yesterday, revealed that during the past holiday weekend, four to five officers would have been on duty, working the 7 am to 3 pm, 3 pm to 11 pm and 11 pm to 7 am shifts. He said that the market was covered throughout the period and a number of checks were conducted. Foo also related that there are a number of cameras in the vicinity, as some stallholders have had them installed.

Acknowledging that more security is needed in the area, it was noted that the council is faced with financial constraints. However, Foo yesterday stated that the number of patrols around the Stabroek Market have been increased, and a statement from the M&CC related that the council will soon be putting in place a system for the implementation of CCTV and other monitoring devices in and around the municipal markets.

“We continue to be relentless in our pursuit to achieve good order and security but unless we have a free hand to bring order to that section of the city, those who are bent on criminal activities would seek cover there,” the M&CC’s statement said.

Culpability

A statement from L Seepersaud Maraj and Sons, sent out Tuesday night, had related that the vault that was broken into was equipped with three doors, which were each “cut with precision.” It was stated that based on advice from security specialists and persons trained in ironworking and welding, it would have taken no less than five hours for the vault to be cut open.

Asked yesterday if he felt it may have been the case that the ranks on duty might have been negligent, if the assessment given to the business proved to be true, Foo reiterated that he did not want to make a pronouncement at that time for fear of appearing defensive, but he noted that experience over the years has proven that often the perpetrators of such crimes are stallholders.

“We’ve learned from the past that some of these crimes when they’re committed, they’re committed by persons within the market. They’re persons who seclude themselves within stalls, and on top of stalls, they come out by night, or during the day, in terms of holidays and they operate,” he related.

Foo noted that the constabulary has a protocol that when matters of this nature occur, the market is closed and a search conducted. He said that because contact had not been made with the constabulary—it learnt of the robbery through unofficial sources—this protocol could not be enacted.

Foo had told this newspaper that the constabulary was made aware of the robbery around 9.30 am on Tuesday, approximately two hours after the stall owners were notified. He noted that up until yesterday, no official report had been made to the constabulary, although one was made to the Guyana Police Force, which has taken a lead on the investigation.

“In terms of being a tenant of the council, we have an abiding interest… and, therefore, we were a bit disappointed that that information was not provided in a timely manner…,” Foo said, while adding that the agencies could have been informed simultaneously. 

On Wednesday, the police detained six persons for questioning in relation to the robbery. Stabroek News was informed that these individuals are still in custody.

“…At this point in time, in terms of accepting responsibility, that is not something for us to actually pronounce on at this point in time. It’s a wide range…investigation that has to be carried out and I am happy to say that also this is being done outside of the constabulary because the fact that we have the primary responsibility for securing the [institution], persons may want to arrive at certain conclusions. So, I am happy that we have the Guyana Police Force, [which] is… leading the investigation into the matter,” Foo stated.

It was related that Foo, along with Akeem Peter, who is acting in the capacity of Mayor, visited the business place yesterday morning and spoke with one of the proprietors.

Followed protocol

Meanwhile, MMC Security Force, which is hired to secure the store, released a statement yesterday saying that all protocols were followed after the alarms were triggered.

The jewellery store, in its statement, had said that it was not contacted by MMC after the alarms went off as is usually the case, and that the security force also did not contact the police. It was stated that the alarm was triggered three times on Monday night.

However, MMC, in its statement, said that after receiving electronic alarm signals from the store, calls were made to the numbers provided but the calls went unanswered. It was stated that the company checked its phone records to verify such.

“As per operating procedure, we dispatched an armed Power Patrol team to the client’s location. Unfortunately, our team was unable to gain access to the Stabroek Market after normal business hours,” the statement said.

MMC added that it sincerely regrets the losses suffered and is assisting with the investigation.

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