We will never underestimate or under-appreciate the efforts of the Royal Barbados Police Force in maintaining law and order in this country.
Nor will we trivialise the excellent track record which the institution has accumulated over the years. But recent statements emanating from the hierarchy of the Royal Barbados Police Force have given us cause to ponder and reflect.
Much is being made of the cash for gold industry and the lure which it is allegedly providing for felons to commit criminal acts against the person and against homes in the quest to acquire bounty to exchange for hard cash.
The debate is such that one is almost minded to believe that stealing jewellery in Barbados is a new phenomenon. We have had the almost defeatist suggestion from the force’s public relations office that citizens should stop wearing gold in public. While the force obviously see this only as a precaution, we do not.
We interpret the call another way. Citizens are in a sense being told by the Royal Barbados Police Force to surrender to criminals, to give up certain social freedoms because of criminal elements and fear.
To this, we say a resounding no.
And within this context we remind our populace of three names — Ryan Clarke, Barry Moore and Moulton Charles. The records of the Royal Barbados Police Force will show an unprecedented spike in larcenies from the person — mainly jewellery — in the Bridgetown Division in the early 1990s. These were often accompanied by violence and in one instance, the death of the late lamented Rendel Cumberbatch.
The response of the Royal Barbados Police Force was to engage in round-the-clock, robust mobile and especially foot patrols, searches, sting operations and consultation with law-abiding citizens.
The result of this was the identification of Ryan “Woggy” Clarke and Barry “Barry Jack” Moore as among the perpetrators of these offences. While the late Clarke was subsequently convicted and incarcerated for his crimes, Moore was shot and killed while involved in an armed confrontation with the law. The records of the Royal Barbados Police Force will show a significant drop in such crimes in the Bridgetown Division following this and other interventions.
The lesson there is that neither the Royal Barbados Police Force nor citizens threw their hands into the air in surrender. Citizens were not called upon to stop wearing jewellery or conversely to give in to criminal siege or fear.
The records of the Royal Barbados Police Force will show a sudden surge in sexual assaults in the Bridgetown Division in the mid-1980s where more than a dozen women fell victim to a predator fitting one specific description. Several students walking the areas of Bank Hall, Country Road, Bush Hall, Whitepark Road, Barbarees Hill and other streets, went about their activities in trepidation.
The response of the Royal Barbados Police Force was to engage in round-the-clock, robust mobile and foot patrols, night and day surveillance, searches, sting operations and consultation with law-abiding citizens.
The result of this was the apprehension of Charles at Country Road in the act of committing another sexual assault, his subsequent identification by several victims, his conviction and life incarceration. The records of the Royal Barbados Police Force will show that those series of sexual assaults came to an abrupt halt on Charles’ apprehension.
Again, the lesson is that neither the Royal Barbados Police Force nor our citizens surrendered certain personal freedoms to criminal elements. Students were not told to stop attending evening classes at the Barbados “O” Level Institute, Louis Lynch Secondary, Metropolitan High, or elsewhere, for fear that they might be ravished as they made their way home.
In democratic dots such as Barbados the ability to track criminal elements and solve crime is greatly enhanced by the miniscule jurisdiction in which law officers operate. Those charged with protecting life and property and bringing criminals to justice in countries such as the United States and Great Britain, for all their technological advantages, would agree that the larger the jurisdiction the greater the headache.
But small jurisdictions like Barbados will create their own headaches if certain policing basics are not adhered to. Manageable situations will always appear insurmountable in the absence of total commitment and focus. The route towards wrestling crime to the ground will not be found in a culture of talk or one that lends to surrender or police facing off against each other in the law courts.
The cash for gold debate is old news. More than two decades old. It was dealt with before by robust, diligent policing. There is no need for surrender.†††