Mahdia fire deaths, gun offences spike crime figures

Last Updated on Wednesday, 9 August 2023, 21:55 by Denis Chabrol

Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn

The burning to death of 20 children in the Mahdia Secondary School’s girls dormitory and an upsurge in gun crimes are responsible for a so far 14.8 percent rise in serious crimes for 2023 compared to a slump during  the past two years, Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn said Wednesday night.

“At the moment, even though we have a target of minus 35 percent for this year based on last year’s numbers, we have had the unfortunate situation in respect of the serious and tragic matter at Mahdia which has impacted negatively on the statistics and we have had an upsurge in gun crimes. These two particular issues are what are driving the statistics in the direction which we did not want it to go,” he said.

A female student of that school is before the court on  20 counts of murder allegedly committed on May 22, 2023.

APNU+AFC parliamentarian Geeta Chandan Edmond.

Mr Benn told the National Assembly during consideration of additional monies for the Guyana Police Force that every effort was being made to bring gun crimes under control, in answering questions by Shadow Home Affairs Minister Geeta Chandan-Edmond about whether the need for more field materials was due to an increase in crime and so the crime figures were “misleading.”

Mr Benn said while there was a 20 percent reduction in serious crimes in 2021 and 2022 compared to previous years. “There is a cumulative reduction in total violent crime over those years,” he said.

Despite the spike in the figures, he said there was still a “continuous reduction” in the number of serious crimes as a result of commendable work by the Guyana Police Force with support from the Home Affairs Ministry. He promised that every effort was being made to bring the upsurge in gun crimes under control. “We continue to make vigorous efforts in respect of recovering, finding, dealing with issues in respect if gun crimes. We are having successes in relation to this matter,” he said.

Questioned by A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) parliamentarian, Juretha Fernandes about steps being taken to address crime and security concerns in the United States travel advisory in Guyana, the Home Affairs Minister said police were taking action.

APNU+AFC parliamentarian Juretha Fernandes.

Murder and armed robbery are common place especially at night and Guyanese police often lack the resources to respond effectively. “We di as much as we can to patrol those areas and the fact that we are coming for these appropriations relates to us getting better control of the situation for areas which are either crime ridden or have particular risks to persons,” he said.

The Home Affairs Minister used the opportunity to take a short swipe against the US, saying that Guyanese in the US faced “as much or more risk” of being shot at schools and malls in certain cities. He acknowledged that the US had a right to caution its citizens.

He said the “clear-up rate” has never been as high as it has been, but he did not provide any figures.

Meanwhile, the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GGCI) is on record as expressing “intense concern” about the level of crime being perpetrated in Guyana, more particularly, in recent times. “The GCCI remains extremely concerned that should criminal acts continue unabated, that a conducive environment for doing business in Guyana will begin to erode and loss or bodily harm of Guyana’s most valuable resource – its people – will be damaging to our prospects for  economic development,” the chamber added.

That business organisation said while police crime statistics indicate a decline in crime, the GCCI views this as not reflecting the reality of the prevailing circumstances. “Rather, and alarmingly so, the GCCI views the decline in official statistics as demonstrative of a loss in confidence in the GPF and reflective of an underreporting in criminal perpetration,” the chamber said.

The Chamber of Commerce called on the Guyana Police Force to adjust its laxed posture on crime and, echoed the sentiments recently expressed by the Minister of Home Affairs, to clamp down on the lawless malaise existing in daily life. “Lawlessness creates the conditions under which crime flourishes,” the GCCI said.