Public Security sector strengthened in 2016

GINA, GUYANA, Saturday, December 31, 2016

The impressive works done by the Ministry of Public Security in 2016 have helped to strengthen security, through better administering of crime, according to Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan.

During the year, attention was paid to fighting all types of crimes including the narco trade, building capacity of ranks of the Guyana Police Force (GPF), and implementing several initiatives to generally improve the security sector.

War on Drugs

The establishment of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) office in Guyana in February of 2016, gave impetus to the war on drugs.

Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan proffered that the permanent presence of the DEA in Guyana, will serve as a deterrent to persons getting involved in the narco-trade.

“The mere presence of this unit out of America will have a deterring effect…the fact is that such an important institution and such an important drug interdiction unit is here.”

With the advent of the DEA office, Guyana will see other benefits such as training for local institutions.

Ramjattan noted that there is a programme through which several local officers received Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) training. Additionally, the police academy received equipment.

The DEA is also assisting Guyana in other areas, which include efforts to tackle gold smuggling, money laundering and human trafficking.

Regional Director for the DEA, Matthew Donahue said that partnership is important in the drug fight as Guyana became the eighth Caribbean and Latin American country to have the permanent presence of a DEA office.

Additionally, there was the launch of the National Drug Strategy Master Plan 2016-2020 which was deemed by the Public Security Minister as a ‘renewed war on drugs’.

The key focus of the Plan is on the reduction of demand and supply of illicit drugs; control measures; institutional strengthening; policy coordination and international cooperation.

The Master Plan, which was revised, will run until 2020, and according to Minister Ramjattan, it will “reduce the use of drugs in the community and minimise the harm that they cause to individual users and the community at large.”

The Master Plan also caters for the establishment of a drug court. The Government will put the necessary mechanisms in place to reduce the use of incarceration as a punitive response to drug crimes, and alternative strategies will be employed.

The Government will be looking to reduce the amount of time offenders spend in custody. It may promote, where appropriate, in keeping with legislation, alternatives to incarceration for drug-related crimes, taking into account, among other things, gender perspective; the seriousness of the crime; and proportionality of harm to punishment, a section of the plan explained.

Like the United States which established Homeland Security to deal with acts of terrorism, Minister Ramjattan said the Government of Guyana sees the need for a unified government organisation called the National Anti-Narcotic Agency (NANA).

“Under this umbrella of NANA, Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU), the Police Narcotics Unit, the Drug Enforcement Unit under the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) and the Coast Guard, other narcotics fighting units within other larger institutions will be integrated and organised so that we can have more functionality,” the Minister explained.

Guyana also benefitted from US$50,000 to tackle drug trafficking and other transnational crimes. Boosting of the GPF’s forensic capability and fortifying of prisons were catered for under this funding.

Crime fight

The Ministry of Public Security in January 2016, received funding for its Citizen Security Strengthening Project (CSSP) from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to the value of US$15M.

Target areas for the project covered community crime and violence prevention to the tune of US$5.7 million. Of that sum, US$5.5 million was for crime prevention and investigation and rehabilitation and the remainder for social reintegration services.

In August, the first component was launched in 20 communities across five administrative regions that were identified for the project, based on data collected on robberies, homicide, burglaries and sexual violence.

Over 4000 youths and adolescents are to benefit from the four- year project.

The beneficiaries will receive training to improve their skill level, and livelihood with the aim of reducing crime and violence in their communities.

Additionally, the Ministry of Public Security continued to build the capacity of its forensic laboratory so that the facility can provide DNA and gun residue testing. This capacity training also is being developed through the Ministry’s Citizen Security Strengthening Programme.

Reduced crime rate

Throughout the year 2016, the crime rate in Guyana continued to decrease with each passing month. This was attributed to the high level of trust that the GPF has gained from members of the public.

Late in December 2016, it was reported by Commander for ‘A’ Division, Clifton Hicken that there was a 21 percent decrease in serious crimes.

According to Assistant Commissioner of Police, David Ramnarine, good law enforcement efforts were credited for the prevention of an increase in serious crimes.

“We are benefiting from, and are putting into effect much needed training that we have received recently, resources that we have received, and other interests that have been given to the force to make the force better able to respond to the needs of society,” Ramnarine explained.

Also, it is evident that ranks of the GPF have been working assiduously to crack cases as several were solved during the year. One notable case was the finding and convicting of self-confessed drug lord Barry Dataram who had fled Guyana to neighbouring Suriname.

Extensive training

Training was another area where there was much emphasis during the year 2016. The Government of Canada, through its Anti-Crime Capacity Building Programme (ACCBP), provided funding to the Canadian NGO, the Justice Education Society (JES), to implement two projects over a two-year period to the tune of $106 million.

The goal of the JES project is to develop the technical capacity of the police, police prosecutors, state prosecutors and magistrates to collect, analyse and present forensic evidence as a means of decreasing impunity rates.

Training commenced within the GPF on Major Case Management, Forensic Video Analysis and Crime Scene Management.

Additionally, police officers throughout the year, received training overseas to boost the capacity of the security sector.

The Government continued to look at ways to strengthen the security sector for the protection of citizens. One such initiative is the Security Sector Reform Programme (SSRP) which seeks to develop the sector as part of government’s effort to confront widespread crime.

Minister of State, Joseph Harmon during a press conference had explained that “the framework of the programme is ongoing, which plans to look at the security sector in particular, the way we do policing, how we are addressing crime in this country in a very systematic way.  We have to look at how the sector is dealt with, we have to look at best practices, and from time to time, we will get assistance from friendly countries in assisting us in these matters.”

Other achievements

Aside from tackling crime, the Minister of Public Security also commenced an initiative to save lives. This was seen with the launch of the Emergency Medical Services (EMS). Persons with medical emergencies can access the services by dialing 912 and will receive attention within 10 to 15 minutes.

Spearheading the programme is the Guyana Fire Service which has five ambulances available for the EMS pilot. Areas from Timehri, East Bank Demerara to Enmore, East Coast of Demerara are catered for under the pilot project.

Additionally, Commander Hicken spearheaded the establishment of several youth groups in communities across Guyana. The groups focus on developing young people in sports, art and leadership.

“We looked at the discipline, we looked at the enthusiasm, and we recognised that if they have the right nurturing and leadership within that framework they can do wonders in our society,” the A Division Commander explained.

In the area of traffic, the GPF’s Traffic Department made tremendous strides in tackling road deaths. One initiative by the GPF was the launch of ‘Operation Safeway’ that has been deemed a success.

Data supplied by the Traffic Department on December 29, show that for the year 2016, a total of 42,349 drivers were charged for the following traffic violations:

23,934 for speeding

3,379 for driving under the influence of alcohol

1,701 for driving unlicenced

1,603 for driving while using cellphones

4,607 for driving with loud music and

7,125 drivers for speeding

Additionally, there was the launch of a “White Knight Campaign” by the GPF in collaboration with the Guyana National Road Safety Council (GNRSC). This effort provided education awareness with enforcement during strategic roadblocks.

By: Isaiah Braithwaite