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Guyanese expect a lot from security-expert laden govt to control crime, says US-based Professor

Professor Ivelaw Griffith delivering a lecture titled lecture titled

A United States (US)-based Guyanese Political Scientist and security expert has urged the ruling coalition to engage in all-out efforts be made by the ruling coalition, several top officials are ex senior members of the security forces, to keep its electoral promise to reduce the high incidence of crime.

“Part of the expectation, part of the anxiety for something to be done by this government has to do with what the parties running for office promised,” Professor Ivelaw Griffith said in a public lecture on “Regime Change and Expectations Management: Crime and other Quotidian Security Challenges Facing Guyana.”

Against the background of the May 2015 campaign promises that included a 27-point agenda to combat crime, he said Guyanese at home and abroad were anxious about how the newly-elected coalition government would handle crime and border claims through strategic and tactical measures.

Griffith stressed that residents and investors were justifiably anxious in expecting “deliverables” to address poor internal security because the government has a wealth of expertise in security and that at some stage they would remind the coalition government of its promises.

“The new leadership team has lots of folks who have security as their professional background, who have law enforcement as their background.

So I think it is natural for citizens to expect that since you guys have been experts, you have been in the security business, you have made all these promises we expect change,” said Griffith who has written extensively on security in the Caribbean and the Americas.

President David Granger is a former Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Brigadier. His National Security and Environmental Advisers are Retired Major General Edward Collins and Retired Rear Admiral Commodore Gary Best respectively.  The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and Minister of State are Retired Police Commissioner Winston Felix and Retired Lt.Col. Joseph Harmon.

Police Commissioner Seelal Persaud told Demerara Waves Online News that the police has been developing a plan based on a five-point strategy that government has given to the civilian law enforcement agency. “It’s a strategy to improve specific aspects of our operations and it gives us an opportunity to ask for the resources that are necessary to boost those operations,” he said.

The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration on Sunday told Antigua’s Nice FM Radio that government was taking steps to combat serious crimes by reforming the police force, strengthening intelligence, providing the necessary responses and improving community relations. “…all in one package to ensure that we protect Guyanese within the country with a police force that has a credibile image in the eyes of the public,” he said.

Among the recent high-profile crimes that Professor Griffith referred to are the killing of political activist Courtney Crum-Ewing in March 2015, the brutal assault and robbery of Justice Nicola Pierre and her husband on July 9 and the shooting of a businesswoman in her eye at Canje during a robbery.

While several other robberies have been committed in recent days, police have also arrested several persons in connection with a number of robbery-murders including the killing of a city businessman at his La Jalousie, West Coast Demerara home and the assault of Justice Pierre.

In a country where people have been killed, businesses affected and Guyana’s image badly affected, Griffith said statistics show that this South American country is among the 20 most homicidal nations where 20 out of every 100 persons are killed “significantly by the use of weapons.” The recently released half-year report shows a nine percent increase in serious crimes for the first six months of 2015; 79 murders at the end of June, 2015 compared to 69 for the same period last year; a 74 percent increase in rapes and nine percent increase in break-and-enter and larceny.

Arguing that daily high profile occurrences of serious crimes continue to be a source of major concern to, among others, foreign investors who have to spend more on improving security, Professor Griffith said people were yearning for quick solutions alongside other sectors such as education, politics  and the economy.

Recommendations

Professor Griffith outlined several steps that would have to be taken to crack down on crime. They include weeding out criminals from the Guyana Police Force. “Some of the protectors are themselves the perpetrators of crime,” he said, referring to the burning of then teenager, Twyon Thomas’ genitals by police during a murder probe in October 2009.

Although he said there are criminals in the police, defence and other security agencies, he pointed out that their rights have to be also respected as part of a system of reform by the now almost two-month old government. “It is part of the onus of the new administration to help to manage that. You can’t just throw out the whole police force and start over. Policemen also have due-process rights but is incumbent on the society, it is incumbent on the political elites to appreciate that part of the challenge has to do with reform because the people who protect us they are not all protectors,” he said.

Professor Griffith said the Guyana Police Force needs to be given the resources, equipment and facilities including vehicles to tackle crime, arrest perpetrators and prosecute them swiftly. “Low crime resolution rate is a contributory factor to people feeling emboldened,” he said.

The rehabilitation of criminals, he added, must include a close a closer relationship between the police force and the Guyana Prison Service.

Griffith further recommended that someone be appointed to mobilize women, business, religious organisations to select and implement specific areas in the many crime studies that have been done. “There has got to be somebody who is not the Police Commissioner or the army Chief-of-Staff who is a crime czar who can harness and move things with the various sector inputs…somebody has got to be the chief marshall,” he said.

The Guyana Police Force is already engaging the religious community in providing counseling to young petty criminals and expanding a network to interface with the police in preventing and solving crimes.

The government, he said, should increase police salaries, grant tax incentives to businesses that purchase and install surveillance systems and rehire retirees rather than leave them to eke out jobs in the private sector to supplement their pensions.