We need Bernie now! Peeping Tom

Kaieteur News
December 3, 2006

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When former head of the New York Police Department (NYPD), Bernie Kerik indicated that we need to be assessing crime statistics on a daily basis, it caused a group with which I am associated to laugh their heads off.

Yet this very method of daily assessment of crime statistics within precincts is what led former Mayor Giuliani to develop the reputation for “cleaning up” the Big Apple.

Not only did the former Mayor and his police commissioners rely on daily analysis of crime figures, but they also insisted on the respective area heads being held accountable for the reduction of crime within the precincts.

When Kerik made the point about the need to assess crime statistics on a daily basis, it amused my friends because they felt that Guyana was too small a country to be doing daily analyses of crime data. It was argued that the number of crimes New York would have per hour is probably what we would have in an entire year and therefore rather than doing analysis of daily reports, we should do the analysis every few months.

The difficulty of course is that when the analysis is done every few months rather than every day, it is not likely that anyone would be held accountable for the increase in criminal activity in specific areas, nor is it likely that timely reallocation of resources to troubled communities can take place because by the time one recognises a problem it may be too late.

I think Bernie Kerik was spot on when he called for daily analyses and I will explain why I think so. Last Sunday we were told that there was a decrease in crime in Berbice for the first ten months of this year.

According to a Kaieteur News report, the Ancient County recorded a decline of 2.3 per cent in reports of crime for the first ten months of the year. Considering, however, that there were only 1,726 reports, any decrease under twenty five per cent can be considered negligible.

There are a number of points that I wish to make about the Berbice crime statistics which are in no way intended to diminish the good work done by Commander Conway over the years.

What is worrying is that the incidence of reports of less serious crime decreased by some 32%. This could mean that less serious crimes are not being reported because of the poor crime solving rate.

While 1,726 reports of crime were made, of these only 807 cases were made. This indicates that cases have so far only been made in less than half of the total reports. This should be as major a concern to the Guyana Police Force as is the massive reduction (percentage wise) of less serious crimes. We need to determine what has resulted in this reduction in less serious crimes and why it is that despite this reduction, the number of cases made as a fraction of the total reports received is so poor. What do these numbers state about the need to increase the allocation of resources to the Guyana Police Force to ensure a higher rate of solving crimes?

As I had mentioned in a previous column, the “broken windows” theory of crime fighting asks that attention be paid to both minor and serious crime since unless one pays attention to the gaps in crime fighting, it can encourage more proliferation and more serious criminal activity. One is better able to study crime trends from this perspective if one does daily analyses, especially faced with the situation where criminal gangs tend to move from area to area in order to avoid detection. It can also point to indicators as to where problems are likely to develop in the future.

The analysis of crime also needs to be made on a daily basis because if this is done then it will allow for a truer picture of crime in the country. Many crimes are not reported because of the poor crime-solving rate. Thus, if someone jumps my gate and steals something from my yard, I may be disinclined to go to the station because of my lack of faith in the police apprehending others. At the same time, many people are engaged in fistfights each day and often reports are not made to the press. It is not until someone tries to exact revenge and something fatal happens that the authorities are told about the prior incident.

With a daily analysis, there is greater chance of something being done about misdemeanors and therefore the greater likelihood that minor crimes will be reported. Broken widows can therefore be quickly fixed before they turn into a major problem.

The locations of most police stations were determined long before independence and were in response to the challenges faced at the time. In other cases, police stations were built to address specific concerns which no longer exist. For example, the Madiwini Police Outpost was established when the contraband trade was rampant through our national airport. It is only a stone's throw away from the main police station at Timehri and it is time the two are integrated and the outpost closed down.

In the case of Tuschen and Diamond Housing areas for example, there is need for new police stations in these areas because these are massive housing developments and work should begin immediately on establishing police stations, not outposts, for these two areas.

All of these things would however be better detected by studying crime statistics at the macro and minute levels. Not only will these analyses point us in the right direction, it will also provide an objective measurement of which commanders are performing and which are not.

And for this reason alone we should have Bernie Kerik in Guyana . We surely cannot afford to pay him out of the Treasury but we should invite his company to bid for the security reform consultancy that is expected to be funded by the IDB. He will bring the right ideas on board.