Despite security measures being put in place to curb the frequent robberies within the Stabroek Market and surrounding bus parks, commuters are advised to be alert.
Recently, a number of persons walking in the area have become victims of petty robberies carried out by thieves loitering there. Hotspots for the robberies have been identified as the bus parks, the Demico pavements in the vicinity of the Kitty/Campbellville and Sophia bus parks, in front of the Stabroek Market, the Avenue of the Republic in the vicinity of the Commercial and Deeds Registry, and Robb Street.
Victims and others have recounted that the suspected robbers would observe the movements of potential victims before pouncing on them, after which they would quickly escape through the busy thoroughfare. In many cases, the muggers commit the act in pairs.
“We out here 24/7 and we see persons get robbed but by time we can do anything, the man (robber) done buss through the crowd and get away. These things happens so fast…” a vendor in the vicinity of the Stabroek Market told Stabroek News.
It was pointed out that a robbery can occur at any point of the day as the robbers who oftentimes operate in pairs, lurk around the parks. “It doesn’t matter the time of the day or night. If they see someone they want to rob, they will do it,” the vendor added.
Another vendor said many times persons are attacked on the pavements. “You are walking on the pavements and they come next to you, grab your bag, cell phone or jewellery and run away. They might even vice (choke) you if they see you putting up a resistance. Sometimes people don’t even know they are being targeted until they are attacked,” he said.
Police Commander of ‘A’ Division Marlon Chapman told Stabroek News that the police are aware of the situation at the bus parks and the police presence was upped. He also pointed to an increase in police patrols in the area. Even as he said that with the festive season in the air more lawmen are at the bus parks to provide better security, Chapman called on commuters to be cautious of their environment.
Touching on the arrest of suspects, Chapman said in many instances, victims fail to attend identification parades or return to give additional statements resulting in the police having to release the suspects.
Also commenting on the security measures in place was acting Chief Constable Laurel Gittens of the City Constabulary. She explain-ed that the constabulary is currently working in collaboration with the Guyana Police Force to curb the rise in petty thefts around the bus parks.
She noted that the constabulary has deployed “plain clothes officers” at the bus parks to gather intelligence as they work to rein in the gang of robbers. She said that these constables work along with the uniformed constables and the patrols. Like the police, she said, the constabulary has increased patrols within the bus parks during the days and nights.
“We have a gang that is committing the robberies within the bus parks. Based on what we have gathered, it is a gang of boys between the ages of 10 and 19 years old. In many cases they are liming at the parks posing as touts,” she explained. “We have decided to collaborate with the police force to bring an end to this gang,” she added. This initiative is yet to yield results.
Gittens revealed that they receive at least two to three reports of petty robberies per day. But while there are many reports of such robberies, she said, there is a small number of convictions.
On this note, she said in many instances, they are unable to prosecute suspects because of the lack of statements from victims or the absence of victims at identification parades. Instead of going to the courts, some victims will ask for their items to be replaced or for compensation. Consequently, only a small number of cases make it to the courts.
While there are many reports of the petty robberies being committed, Stabroek News learnt that the incidence of attempts to commit a robbery is even higher.
One phone card vendor told Stabroek News that she was a victim of such an attempt. “A night I was going home, just done sell and I was walking to the 42 bus park and I feel these persons walking behind me but I didn’t think I was getting robbed. It is the park so people always walking next to you… these boys, it was two of them; they just pull my bag but the people on the park saw and shouted at them and (they) ran away,” she recounted.
She, like many others, applauded the presence of the police on the bus parks for the festive season. Nonetheless, she said, the measure should be in place year round. “You know how many times things happen and you can’t find a police to make a report? But now they are so close at every corner you can run to one of them,” she said.
Meanwhile, Gittens explained that while the park is a busy area and many persons would witness a robbery, they are fearful of intervening and risking their lives. This publication understands that most muggers are armed with some form of a sharp object. Most of the times, the miniature weapon is hidden under their clothing.
On Friday night, a teacher of the South Road Nursery School was robbed by a man who was armed with a scissors, while at the Kitty/ Campbellville bus park. An individual who attempted to assist her was stabbed by the attacker with the scissors.
The teacher, on her Facebook page, recounted that her phone was snatched by a young man while she was sitting in a Kitty/Campbellville bus. He attempted to escape but a man, who saw what had happened, ran behind the thief and as he was apprehending him, was stabbed.
Further, a few weeks ago, a student from Queen’s College was stabbed and robbed of his valuables while on his way home. He was only helped when persons observed that he was bleeding.
Gittens and vendors also told Stabroek News that getting robbed while sitting in a bus is a common occurrence. Gittens noted that in many instances, the muggers will target persons sitting next to a window. “They will come up to the window and snatch your chain off your neck or your cellular phone while you have it in your hand. These kinds of robbery are very common,” Gittens said.
She advised persons to be alert as they walk around the park and to avoid displaying their phones or valuables in a manner that would attract robbers. She further advised persons to be cautious if they are sitting close to a window while waiting for the bus to fill.
One man told Stabroek News that at the Route 44 Annandale minibus park, they do not encourage loiterers and robberies are minimal. “We would chase any persons that looks suspicious on the park. We don’t encourage them to stay here and we don’t have robberies at this park,” he said.