US advisory on increased violent crimes in Guyana incorrect – Govt
One day after the United States warned its citizens about the high crime rate in Guyana, the Government said the travel advisory is incorrect, adding that the country is a “safe place”.
In a statement on its website, the US State Department urged its citizens to exercise caution when visiting Guyana due to the evident spike in the country’s crime rate.
However, Director General at the Ministry of the Presidency (MOTP), Joseph Harmon has touted Guyana as a safe place to not only visit but invest.
“From the level of the Cabinet, I wish to assure all of our citizens, including those citizens who are abroad and are making decisions to travel to Guyana, that Guyana is a safe place. Guyana is a safe place to live, it’s a safe place to work, it’s a safe place to invest and that’s the word I wish to give to all persons who might be thinking twice as a result of this advisory,” Harmon told reporters at the post-Cabinet press briefing on Friday.
According to the State Department, Guyana’s police network is hindered to effectively alleviate these incidents due to the lack of resources.
“Violent crimes such as armed robbery and murder is common. Local police lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents,” the notice stated.
But Harmon pointed out that the coalition Government is fully confident in the ability of local police officers to tackle crime in this country.
The Director General at MOTP said that Government is unhappy about the US travel advisory on Guyana’s high crime rate.
“Every time an advisory comes out, people think twice about travelling to your country [and] they think twice about investing. So we cannot say we’re happy at all with advisories that speak towards the security of the State and affect the way in which people make decisions to travel to our country,” the Government spokesperson said on Friday.
The State Department further advised all travellers from the United States to be extra vigilant when visiting banks or ATMs and avoid walking or driving in the nights. Persons were also cautioned not to resist any robbery attempts they might encounter and desist from displaying signs of wealth, such as expensive watches or jewellery.
In Guyana’s Crime and Safety Report for 2018, which was created by the State Department, Georgetown was assessed as “a critical-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official US Government interests”. It was indicated that the country’s crime statistics are above the national average.
However, Harmon, who is a United States citizen himself, contended on Friday that the Police Force is now better led by a cadre of senior officers who are ensuring that operations are intelligence-led, thus resulting in successes such as the recent breakthroughs in the local criminal network.
Within the past weeks, local police have shot and killed six bandits – three in Black Bush Polder on the Corentyne and three in Georgetown during the course of armed robberies.
The US travel advisory came on the heels of a recent statement from the local Private Sector Commission (PSC) calling for more to be done to curb the spate of violent crimes across the country.
While commending the recent successes of the police in confronting violent crimes, the Commission in a statement on Wednesday underscored the importance of equipping the Force with the necessary equipment to tackle the growing challenges threatening the safety and wellbeing of citizens.
“The Commission is convinced of the need for significantly greater human and financial resources being placed at the disposal of the Police Force… The Commission believes that there is considerable room for enhancement in intelligence gathering and analysis than is currently in place,” the Commission said its missive.
According to the umbrella Private Sector body, its Governance and Security Committee met on Wednesday to address the increasing and widespread public concern over the manifestly “frightening and disturbing” incidents of violent crime across the country.
Coming out of that meeting, the Committee decided to request a joint meeting with Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan and Commissioner of Police Leslie James to discuss the matter.
“The Commission believes that there is a much greater need for public confidence and trust in the Police Force… The Commission looks forward to a strong and uncompromising standard of leadership in our security forces,” it added.
Further, the PSC went on to highlight its deep concerns over the “insufficient progress” being made with regards to the implementation of Security Sector Reforms.