We pray this never happens again. And our elected officials need to ensure it doesn’t.
On Tuesday, men with machetes and blunt objects started swinging their weapons wildly, attempted to get into drivers’ vehicles and then took their frustrations out on the vehicles with enough force that you can see some parts of the metal cut through, according to several people who witnessed the harrowing events.
Government officials said the media had blown the story out of proportion.
Former senator and former Department of Public Safety chief Judi Guthertz said whether it was one man with a machete or five, it’s too many.
She’s also right when she says people don’t feel safe anymore. Thieves are getting bolder, robbing people’s homes in the daylight hours while people are home, pulling into parking lots and breaking car windows to steal personal belongings, and tearing down walls to break into local businesses.
And hearing Guthertz say the culprits in Tuesday’s incident on University Drive in Mangilao may have been drug-related raises even more concern.
It feels as though the island’s values, as well as the feeling of safety and of community, have been overrun by fear of burglaries and violence.
Calling the incident “exaggerated” or accusing the media of “blowing it out of proportion” is hardly a solution.
The fact is more and more island residents are living in fear and having to police our communities and protect ourselves – not because police officers aren’t doing their jobs, but because there simply aren’t enough of them on the streets.
We hope that the upcoming meetings on public safety pave the path to a safer Guam – one where parents don't fear allowing their children to go out and play in the yard, tourists can walk down the streets without fear of being robbed at gunpoint, where Tan Maria doesn't have to worry that someone is going to force their way into her home, and Tun Jose isn't worried when walking to the corner store that drunken or drugged loiters are going to ask him for money or give him trouble.
Guam Police Department Chief Stephen Ignacio has made efforts to put more officers on patrol, but the department is still severely understaffed and needs the appropriate budget allocation and resources to increase their presence and visibility in our villages.
Almost daily, we report on plea bargains that have been struck, reducing sentences for Guam’s criminals or the repeat offenders who are released from jail awaiting trial – only to be arrested again for theft, assault or drug possession – requiring police to go out and chase down the same people they arrested a month or two before.
The police are getting tired. And elected officials, so are your constituents.
And no, that’s not an exaggeration.