US report dubs Guyana ‘Critical threat location’ for crime

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…says Govt corruption widespread
…Police officers ‘paid off’ by by criminal elements 

A 2018 U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory, released by the OSAC has advised Americans travelling to Guyana to exercise normal precautions but advised that the crime situation is “critical.”

“The U.S. Department of State has assessed Georgetown as being a CRITICAL-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests” the report said.

According to the report, criminal activity continues to be a major issue. Highlighting that serious crimes (murder, armed robbery) are common, OSAC said “the most recent information from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime lists Guyana’s 2013 homicide rate as 20.4 per 100,000 people — the third highest murder rate in South America (behind Colombia and Brazil) and five times higher than that of the U.S.”

It was outlined that armed robberies, including carjacking, occur regularly, especially in businesses and shopping districts. Moreover, armed robberies of business/patron establishments occur frequently in Georgetown.

“While criminals regularly use weapons, despite a rigorous licensing requirement to own firearms. Handguns, knives, machetes, or cutlasses tend to be the weapons of choice. Criminals may act brazenly, and police officers have been both victims and perpetrators of assaults and shootings. Criminals are increasingly willing to resort to violence while committing all types of crimes. Criminals are often organized, travel in groups of two or more, and conduct surveillance on their victims. Criminals generally will not hesitate to show multiple weapons as an intimidation tactic during a robbery.”

Addressing the Police response to the crimes, the report outlines that “the Guyana Police Force (GPF) has resource and manpower limitations that inhibit its ability to deter or respond to criminal activity. Even on the occasions when the GPF responds to a crime scene, victims are asked to go to the nearest police station to file a report and complete other investigative formalities. Confidence in the GPF is low due to the public’s perception of heavy handedness, ineffectiveness, and corruption.”

The report says that while the fire department generally provides a timely response, the “police response, especially during the night, is less dependable. The police response to emergency calls is often slow (15+ minutes) or not at all.”

According to the 2018 report, “Corruption is widely perceived to be commonplace within many government agencies. Police officers often are reportedly paid off by criminal elements and are alleged to work with criminals by either assisting or protecting them. The judicial system is strained by limited resources and often influenced by threats/bribes. Defendants linked to drug organization often use attorneys who are effective in getting cases dismissed or postponed; as a result, criminals go free on a regular basis.”

Moreover, drug trafficking was outlined as a serious concern and poses the biggest challenge to law enforcement in Guyana.

“Airport security and customs officials frequently detain and arrest individuals attempting to smuggle drugs out of Guyana. Apprehensions of drug mules, often U.S. citizens due to the perceived ease to which a U.S. passport holder can travel, have increased” the report noted.

The U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory said that while Americans are not specifically targeted there are reports of robberies/attacks on American citizens and in areas frequented by expatriates.

Moreover, it was highlighted that hotel room break-ins were reported to the U.S. Embassy by American citizens. As such, OSAC is advising that “travelers should use caution” and does not recommend “walking alone outside after dark, even in the immediate vicinity of these hotels.”

The 2018 OSAC report described Guyana as a developing nation of 750,000 “with a history of sustained high emigration primarily to other Caribbean countries, the U.S., UK, and Canada. Although the country markets a few eco-resorts in its rugged interior, the vast majority of annual visitors are of Guyanese descent, and few hotels exist outside Georgetown. Large swaths of the interior can only be reached by plane or boat and are characterized by a general lack of credible law enforcement.”

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