Although Barbados has already prosecuted one individual for human trafficking with regard to sexual exploitation, the top brass of the police force believes this may not be indicative of the extent of the problem.
Commissioner of Police, Darwin Dottin told the 26 recruits at the 136th Passing Out Parade at the Regional Police Training Centre and other guests yesterday that an officer has already been appointed to head a task force looking into issues of human trafficking.
The top cop noted that increasingly the Caribbean was being looked at by international organisations like the United Nations as one of the locations where trafficking was taking place.
“Our Caribbean region is increasingly coming under the microscope. The International Organisation for Migration has been very active in this regard. Here in Barbados, the Royal Barbados Police Force brought one criminal prosecution against a person who was clearly involved in the trafficking of females for sexual exploitation.
“There is however a growing body of intelligence that suggests our level of prosecution is not indicative of the nature of the problem. There is intelligence to suggest increasing instances of sexual exploitation and debt bondage,” he said.
Dottin said that as a signatory to the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime which calls for the prevention, suppression and ultimately the punishment of those responsible for trafficking in persons and especially women and children, having legislation without more to back it up would be “ineffective”.
“Enforcement is vital,” he stressed.
To deal with the matter, he noted that more strengthening of the training of officers was necessary, and furthermore that increased sensitivity in the handling of victims was also required.
“In the Royal Barbados Police Force I have assigned responsibility for human trafficking and sexual offences to an officer of the rank of Inspector. It is her responsibility to build a capable unit to investigate these crimes.
“In addition to investigative skills it is also a requirement that our officers treat victims with due respect and sensitivity. I am therefore asking Commandant [Sylvester] Louis and his staff here at the Police Training Centre to arrange for seminars and short courses to sensitise members of the Force to these issues,” he suggested.
They would also be charged, he added, with seeking out training opportunities to improve the technical skills of investigators assigned to such cases.
“The Royal Barbados Police Force does not wish to be identified as a police agency which regards crimes involving human trafficking as low priority,” the police chief maintained. (LB)