By Jared Liddell
-Citizens asked to report incidences of theft and vandalism
THE authorities are concerned about the frequency with which vandals have damaged various pieces of public infrastructure as well as the damages caused to electrical poles during accidents on the roadways. Several incidents have been reported and have gotten the attention of the Public Infrastructure Ministry, which works with the Guyana Police Force to bring the necessary actions against the relevant persons.
“The vandalism and theft is not only a problem for the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, it’s a problem for everyone, it’s a wider issue; its not only street lights and traffic lights, it’s the entire traffic portfolio of the country,” this was the statement made by Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson, during a press conference that was hosted at the Ministry’s office on Wednesday.
Minister Patterson said, “We have installed 4712 street lights in 2019 and the year before we did an equal number. Imagine, at night some driver goes and runs into the post after a night of merriment or speeding or carelessness, and takes down two poles and puts entire spots of the area in darkness.” He explained that the problem the ministry faces is that unless two vehicles are involved or unless there is a fatality, there is no police report, persons prefer to flee the scene to avoid them getting into any legal problem.
Patterson explained that Guyanese citizens exhibit a reckless behaviour in the use and care of the country’s public infrastructure, from the roads to the lampposts and light post. He explained that there have been instances where the ministry has completed roads one day and the very next day some motor vehicle operator would decide to drive an excavator on it, destroying the work that would have been done and wasting the resources that would have been used to actually get the road completed.
Further, Patterson stated that persons sometimes remove the infrastructure for their own personal use, saying, “We install solar lights in certain areas and some goodly citizen thinks that anything installed on public roadways is free, so they steal our solar lights.”
He also made mention of persons who break into the traffic light units to remove the batteries in an effort to sell them. The minister calls out not just the person who commit this criminal act of vandalizing public infrastructure, but also the persons who purchase these batteries, “You, the persons that buy these batteries play a large role in the continuation of this crime; it is easy to see that if there were no persons willing to buy these batteries, the persons stealing them would find it hard to get the stolen items off of their hand in exchange for cash and would most likely stop removing them.”
Minister Patterson explained that the public infrastructure ministry faces a challenge in monitoring such instances of theft and destruction to property due to the fact that it cannot station persons from the ministry to watch out for these types of crimes.
In order for this to be stopped, the citizens themselves must come to the realization that it is in their best interest and for their benefit to have the infrastructure and that they should refrain from destroying and or removing them.
The minister is also urging citizens to be vigilant, and that anyone who may see someone removing or destroying public infrastructure should make a report of the incident so that the person(s) involved could be held accountable.
“I would think the pursuit of persons knocking light posts down might not be the highest priority as the other pressing matters they have to address, so we don’t have the degree of success in prosecuting I would be comfortable with, it’s not that they are not looking [it is] that they might have other priorities.
“We just have to keep the public educated, we have to ask the public to help us to do it. We have to be vigilant, we have a very active Facebook page, we ask people to report, if you see something going on, it can even be done anonymously; we know people have been doing that and we have been sending people out and working with the police, of course you know the prosecution rate has not been frequent as we would like”
Patterson stated that the ministry will be working with the Guyana Police Force to find and take up the necessary legal actions against persons who have damaged or removed parts of public infrastructure.