On Monday morning, two young girls thought they lost their mother at the hands of a lone gunman when she was attacked while standing in her yard waiting for a taxi to take her young nephew to Parika, East Bank Essequibo.
What was appalling in the dreadful situation was the fact that neighbours called the Police station— which is just a few streets away— but their pleas for help from law enforcement went in vain, since no one showed up immediately.
Over the years, there have been numerous media reports of persons seeking the help of Police— via 911 or otherwise— while armed robberies have been in progress, but resulted in the caller being given a number for the Police station within jurisdiction. In the case of the two young girls on Monday, their plea for help started at about 03:00h, but the Police never turned up until almost 06:00h. Many, over the years, have lamented the poor Police emergency service. In desperate situations when crimes are being committed, and could mean the difference between life and death, the citizenry would naturally expect not just professionalism, but a swift and effective response by law enforcement. There can be no alternative to this.
In addition, some repeated excuses as per the media and victims are, “you need to call another station as this one does not have jurisdiction” and “only two ranks are at the station and as such are unable to assist”. Unfortunately this has been the harsh reality for some. It renews the nagging concern over the many ranks seen on the roadways at any given time dealing with traffic-related issues, but often not enough in the nights to respond to armed robberies.
Motorists have alleged of being unduly harassed by Policemen during the day and it is not unusual to hear of that disparity in presence alluded to. This does not take away from the need to curb errant road users; however, taxpayers would expect nothing short of the desired response when it comes to attack from bandits.
In many past incidents of crime, often the sloth or lack of a response by the Police is noted. Again, this does not take away from the fact that there were times when the Police responded promptly and confronted the armed perpetrators. However, none can deny the distressing reports of residents bemoaning the lack of a timely response. Sentiments would be further riled in the unfortunate circumstances when a life is lost at the hands of bandits.
Experiencing an attack by armed bandits is a most traumatising experience which can linger with time. It haunts and is relived over and over in the minds of the victims. Indirectly, relatives are also affected having to grapple with the horror their loved ones were forced to endure. Tardiness and a perceived lack of concern by the Police would therefore only serve to exacerbate sentiments.
While such trauma would be referred to in the reports, there is uncertainty over mechanisms, if any, that is implemented for mitigation. This is clearly an area for which capacity building is urgently needed and which could help foster improved relationship between the related authorities and residents.
Obviously, the Police have challenges and one is the inadequate number of ranks. That reality unfortunately does not bring respite to residents who find it difficult to accept excuses for slow or a lack of response. These scenarios have unfortunately led to an erosion of confidence in the Police by many citizens and understandably so. There is further erosion when Policemen are fingered and charged for breaking the law including, committing or assisting acts of robberies.
The hierarchy of the Guyana Police Force has faced challenges in building and furtherance of confidence in the Force by the Guyanese people. While many social initiatives are ongoing in this regard, the bottom line will always be the response to and the reduction of crime.
With crime being everybody’s business, the Police’s leadership and the ranks will have to be supported, and they must continue to find innovative ways of meaningfully engaging residents and to be effective to build confidence in all aspects of the system, including quick response to Guyanese pleas for help.