Late last year the Georgetown Mayor and City Council displaced the East Bank of Demerara minibus and car park in preparation for the relocation of vendors who are to be removed from the Stabroek market wharf to facilitate much needed repairs there. The park is now in an area just South of where it originally was.
The first challenge is the obvious smaller area which cannot accommodate the volume of vehicles. The unavoidable searching and jostling for parking spots create congestion leading to traffic buildups in an already overly congested area. In addition, the area is poorly lit at night and with the menace of ever-present rampant gangs, many commuters have been robbed.
This seeming norm in criminal activities in that environ creates high risks for all who depend on public transportation, especially women, with reports of some being groped. Children are also exposed to these dangers. With no alternative, commuters have to take those risks every day with fear lingering in their minds at a place that is literally a stone’s throw away from the country’s Parliament Building.
Many questions abound. Despite national cognizance of the space constraint in the city, more specifically that area, the question of why would the Council remove that main public transportation park to accommodate vendors is still unavoidable. This does not take away from the fact that the vendors needed to be relocated.
The Council in its defence would cite lack of space. While that’s a good argument, probingly, it must be asked if the related deliberations were thorough and inclusive of all Councillors. On the surface, it appears that safety and other concerns of commuters were and probably are still not given the necessary consideration as thousands are being affected every day.
The Council cannot be oblivious of the security concerns at all transportation parks within the city for incidents of robberies continue to be highlighted in the media. It did make effort towards some lighting and, with the Guyana Police Force, to have some level of security presence. However, it is not adequate and from reports, the security presence is not sustained especially in the evenings and late into the nights.
Even if the necessary security measures are implemented at the parks, it is not a guarantee that crime will disappear. However, it will offer a much needed and effective deterrent allowing for almost immediate response and very importantly, comfort the troubling mindsets.
Adequate and necessary security measures, including effective lighting, should have been in place immediately upon the relocation of the park. It therefore becomes mindboggling as why such necessary things were not implemented and sustained even months after. All of the bus and car parks within the city are security risks and all are poorly lit, including some main roads that lead to them.
That, and the criminal activities it encourages, continue to compromise that aspect of public safety. This is a continuous cycle and with every passing day, frustration and fear among commuters increase. One can argue that if the City Council is really concerned about commuters’ safety, it would be making more noise, increased Police presence, even if it’s just to appease.
The knowledge and presence of security measures have positive psychological effects. Its absence, or being grossly inadequate, causes one to wonder if the leadership and the rest of Council really understand the magnitude of what transpires at those parks especially in the evenings and nights and particularly at the East Bank park.
There is great difficulty in accepting the Council being unaware which brings to the fore the frightening scenario of the current inadequacies probably being accepted as adequate with believably scant regard for commuters’ safety.
It must be noted that for every sitting of Parliament, traffic within the immediate area is restricted. This further compounds the congestion at the East Bank park and further increases the risks for criminal activities. Importantly, Police ranks are deployed to enforce the traffic restrictions for the duration of a parliamentary sitting which sometimes go beyond midnight.
While that is deemed necessary to ensure the safety and easy access for parliamentarians, it demonstrates that ranks could be made available to be stationed at the parks during the entirety of what is considered as the high-risk hours. This is what City Hall should be advocating for given that its own resources may be limited.
The Police implements generally effective and pleasing security mechanisms for the Christmas period with temporary outposts at various points. The positive effect of that is known. The obvious question is why it cannot be sustained to some extent with emphasis on the parks throughout the year.
While the force has its own constraints over resources, collaboration with the Council and strategic planning can result in an acceptable and adequate mechanism that could mitigate the current situation. From the Council’s standpoint, even if it is not responsible for the security at the parks, it can demonstrate its genuine concern for commuters’ safety by being proactive. All it takes is will.