In making the announcement this morning at a press conference at police headquarters, Roebuck Street, to discuss the cash-for-gold trade, Commissioner Darwin Dottin said the illegal aspect of it had grown and become a very serious problem confronting the force.
In fact, on several occasions during the news conference, Dottin noted that the cash-for-gold situation was now so fluid he would have no hesitation in going back to the Government to seek greater powers to tackle it.
He provided figures which showed that in January more than $353,000 worth of gold items were stolen, with that figure moving to just under $624,000 the following month.
The police chief suggested that if nothing was done to stop the rising incidents of this crime, the value of stolen gold jewellery could skyrocket to $6 million by year end.
He listed neck chains, bracelets, bangles, rings and every adornment made of gold as the targets of thieves. Dottin also strongly supported an earlier appeal made by his Public Relations Officer, Inspector David Welch, for members of the public to stop wearing their jewellery until the force could get this crime under control.
“I want to add to that to say, I would actually say, too, to Barbadians, that until further notice that they exercise some restriction, some care in wearing items of adornment in public. I would even want to go on to say that they should not wear them until we bring this matter under control,” the police boss advised.
“It is a situation where we are getting increasing violence in relation to this matter; and I think that we, as a police force, would be quite reckless, if we didn’t say that to Barbadians.”
“And it has nothing to do with pride,” the commissioner added, “because people are going to say, ‘Oh the force is throwing its hands up, it’s incompetent in dealing with this matter!’, but nothing can be further from the truth.”
He said he believed any responsible organisation would make the suggestion. “Because if you are wearing the items of adornment in public, it’s an opportunity for persons to victimise you. And so you have to give us a chance to bring this situation under control,” argued Dottin.
He reasoned that if it were a case of Barbadians being victimised in a specific location he would also urged them to be careful going in that area.
Dottin displayed a map which showed what he termed, the pervasiveness of the crime across the island, even though most of the thefts and illegal trading took place in the Bridgetown area.
He said the mapping would guide the force in determining its crime prevention and crime fighting strategies against this “crisis”. The police chief gave examples of how Barbadians and a so far small number of visitors were becoming victims.
He disclosed that people were being attacked on the street, in other public spaces, on public and private transport and at their homes. Dottin related how a 72 year old woman was in her garden when a perpetrator walked in and snatched her chain; a person was driving to work and happened to stop, when someone reached into the vehicle and took their jewellery and an employee of the Attorney-General’s Office was attacked and relieved of her gold as well.
He warned, too, that elderly people were being targeted because of their vulnerability; and that passengers who caught public service vehicles were being followed by thieves who boarded the same buses and disembarked at the same destinations.
Dottin disclosed that stores in Bridgetown, including “respectable ones”, were exchanging brand name items such as shoes for gold delivered by persons as young as 14 years of age.
“We have identified some of these outlets,” Dottin announced.
In fact, he noted, that the teenager had been arrested along with “quite a number of people” in connection with the illegal cash-for-gold trade, where women were being used as couriers to take the smelted items overseas for sale. (EJ)SNbS