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The police cannot rid Guyana of crime, but they must adopt a more aggressive approach with the criminals, regardless of the fact that "bad guys" on both sides are being killed, President Bharrat Jagdeo said yesterday.
However, he said, members of the force are dealing with a "very tough situation" and have made significant progress in some areas. He pointed to the reversal of the number of violent crimes at mid-year and said Guyana is one of the few countries that reversed the trend. The situation, he said, is not as bad as a year ago.
But the reality is that there will always be crime, President Jagdeo said, and while commending the force for the decline, warned that they should not get complacent. Murders and kidnappings resumed in recent months and during this year alone, about 200 persons have been killed, while several others were abducted and are still listed as missing.
Just recently, a senior officer admitted that the police did not have a clue about who were or what was responsible for the number of bullet-riddled bodies that turn up weekly around the country. The president said yesterday that the nature of the crimes is "vendetta-type killing" which happens in furtive ways.
During a press briefing at his office, President Jagdeo told reporters: "I am not satisfied with any level of crime, but there is a reality. You can never stop crime totally. I wish there was some way that we could have done that. There may be room for improvement [in the police force] in many ways and I know that in some cases, the police don't act as expeditiously as they should and it leaves much to be desired. But on the other hand, they have a very tough situation, too, and even if they were a million times [more] efficient, there would still be crime."
Ideally, the Head of State said, he would like to see Guyana as a crime-free society, but people must face the reality that no country is free of crime. He reiterated that citizens should not let their guard down, since the criminals seemed to be constantly reorganising.
"We have seen a lull [after several wanted men and their cohorts were shot dead in June]. I have spoken on several occasions about the need not to be complacent. I've said this to the police. We just can't take a break after we have made some progress on the crime situation. We constantly have to keep our guards up [because] we have seasonal crimes. For Christmas we have a lot of that...then we have another situation where it seems as though there are some gang wars, which is not good for the image of any country, although they might be killing bad guys on both sides."
According to the president, in an effort to combat crime, the government is putting more resources into the police force and is trying to recruit more ranks. "We have to strengthen community policing groups so that more and more people get involved in protecting their communities and they are better trained and [there will be] tougher penalties."
Slow crime-solving rate
"How could the commissioner [of police] bring an explanation to my desk why someone staged a kidnapping?
"How could the commissioner give me an explanation for the criminal who shot the man in Cove and John in his Chinese restaurant?
"What would the commissioner say to me about that criminal?"
These are questions which President Jagdeo put to members of the media when asked what might be responsible for the slow crime-solving rate. According to the president, one can deal with the underlying cause of crime, which some people link to poverty. But although he acknowledged that some types of crime may be poverty-related, he said that other persons who did not conform to any standards committed the worst atrocities.
Answering the questions himself, Jagdeo said that the commissioner could not explain the reasons behind the crimes. "He can say to me, 'We can't solve it' and he doesn't have an explanation [but] he can't tell me why the criminal shot the man. The explanations that they give me basically are that they can't solve the problem. If they could have solved it, there wouldn't have been an issue...I don't want to defend the issue, because I feel strongly that more should be done and I feel that they should have a more aggressive approach with the criminals. But on the other hand when you have an aggressive approach sometimes the same section of society that bawl the most are the ones who are going to turn around and say you [are] harassing people. If they [the police] start going and searching every house in that area, and really going through every single house, you are going to hear that people in a particular area are targeted and they are targeted for one reason or another. But we still have to do it."
According to President Jagdeo, he would like to see zero crime in the country, but he admitted that that would not be realistic. Nevertheless, he hopes that the police could curb the "disturbing tendencies".
"I can give them moral support, I can give material support, but the actual going out and dealing with this has to do with the police themselves," the president said.