Guyana Chronicle:– PRESIDENT Dr Irfaan Ali has announced that his government will be amending the law governing possession of unregistered firearms to apply the “highest penalty” for persons caught with them.
His disclosure comes amid the backdrop that most crimes are gun-related.
The Head of State is looking to implement this and a slew of other measures to further combat crime in the county even though there has been a 19.4 per cent reduction in crime up to November 8, 2021, when compared to the same period last year.
President Ali has already engaged Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, S.C., to propose an amendment of the legislation pertaining to possession of unlicensed firearms so that the “highest penalty” may be imposed.
Illegal weapons are one of the major contributing factors to crime locally.
“We’re going to give a period for all those persons with illegal weapons to deposit those weapons, after which the law will be amended to give you the greatest penalty,” President Ali said on Monday, while delivering a statement on issues affecting the country.
According to Section 16 (2) of the Firearms Act, if a person is found with a firearm in his possession without holding a firearm licence, they shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine of not less than $3,000 nor more than $15,000 together with imprisonment for not less than one year, nor more than three years, and on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for seven years.
While discussing the issue of crime, the President perused a detailed report from the Guyana Police Force which presented a breakdown of critical data such as on what days crime is more prevalent, at what time during the day and the locations where the occurrence of crime is predominant, among other factors.
“Crime has been decreasing but we’re still not satisfied,” President Ali said, noting that investments will be made in the Police Force’s training and development, to improve working conditions and welfare for service men and women and to hold them more accountable, all in a bid to strengthen crime-fighting.
The police report highlighted that in terms of locality, Region One has seen the largest increase in crime with a 132.4 per cent increase for the reported period. On the other hand, Region Four A (Agricola – Cummings Lodge) has seen a 43.4 per cent decrease, and Region Five (Mahaica – Berbice) a 52.1 per cent decrease.
“What is there in Region One that is different? We know that there is an increase migrant population, there is displacement, and of course this is causing social economic issues, and a resulting factor is crime,” President Ali said, noting that statistics such as these shape policy decisions.
The President noted that areas which are covered by the Safe City Programme, namely Regions Three, Four and Five, have been seeing lower crime rates and it is against this backdrop that the programme will be replicated on a national scale.
“To address all the regions nationally we are going to have a Safe Country Programme. We’re going to have the entire country connected on to CCTV camera so that all of the country will be under watch by the relevant authorities so that we can be proactive in crime-fighting,” he said.
Additionally, President Ali disclosed that the government is also considering incentivising crime- fighting, noting that “where there is good performance, there must be differentiated treatment” which will inevitably lead to lower crime rates across the country.
Further, he announced that his government will soon be launching a “confidential” programme to help persons involved in criminal activity who are desirous of changing their lives.
“We want a discussion with you. We want to talk to you to give you an alternative pathway to earning an income and living a decent life.… We want to work with you on giving you a better option at life and we will be pursuing a programme to directly interact with those persons,” he said.
The government will also be investing heavily in intelligence gathering to combat crime which allows more crimes to be cracked before they are committed, the Head of State disclosed.
“The intelligence gathering has to be community-centred, community-oriented, community- supported and we have to develop a trust between the Police Force and the community themselves,” President Ali said.
In terms of the types of crime committed, murder saw a 10.5 per cent decrease; robbery under arms, 32.4 per cent decrease; robbery with aggravation, 44.7 per cent decrease; break and enter larceny, 17.2 per cent decrease; larceny from person, 56.6 per cent decrease and burglary, 36.4 per cent decrease.
On the other hand, rape saw a 55.8 per cent increase for the reported period while robbery with violence saw an 8.1 per cent increase and kidnapping saw a 100 per cent increase with one reported case of a kidnapping in 2021 as compared to zero in 2021.
Zeroing in on robbery under arms, this type of offence saw a 6.2 per cent decrease in homes, a 37.7 per cent decrease on streets and a 33.6 per cent decrease in businesses. The offence is also categorised by days of the week, with Saturday seeing the highest occurrence.
The Guyana Police Force has been engaged in technical work to produce data which would allow government to carefully craft a strategy to target crime. Contrary to the stigma that the force does not solve crimes, Guyana has one of the highest ‘clear up rate’ regionally, the President said.
The Peoples Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), in their 2020 Elections Manifesto, had promised the electorate to reduce crime and promote safer communities through provision of more equipment, facilities, training for law-enforcement personnel and improving investigative and forensic capabilities, among other mechanisms.
President Ali reminded that when the PPP/C assumed office in August, 2020, the Guyana Police Force (GPF) was operating with more than 90 per cent of their vehicular assets being out of order, thereby fighting crime with only 10 per cent capacity.
Thus far, the new administration has committed to making the necessary investments through the provision of requisite assets and developing the human resource that are critical to craft a holistic approach to the revamping of the Guyana Police Force.
“I am going to be upfront in dealing with every issue that challenges the people of this country. I am committed to working every single day to making your life better and you can be assured of this,” President Ali said.