Police explain upsurge in murders
Barbados’ murder toll has risen to 19 in eight months, a situation police are blaming on the illicit drug trade that continues to fuel execution-style killings.
The murders, 12 of which were gun-related, are four more than for the same period last year.
Acting Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith told a press conference this morning that lawmen are particularly concerned that the majority of gun crimes have been committed by people between the ages of 15 and 29, and he said this calls for social intervention.
“In more recent years we’ve seen much younger individuals getting involved in violent crimes. Obviously there is some breakdown in the family; there are social ills,” he said.
“This violence is not directed to the public at large, but rather to a restricted group which engages in a particular type of behaviour that is driven by the drug culture. That is not to say that we are not concerned about the death of these young men. I hope that puts it into context and that it is not taken out of context”. The police chief reported that 84 per cent of the homicides committed have been solved, 30 firearms seized and 20 people charged in connection with those seizures.
He disclosed that the majority of guns are coming from the United States and that law enforcement officials continue to battle the perennial problem of criminals getting inside help to bring illegal weapons into the country.
Griffith appealed to the public for help with information even if it is done anonymously, adding that “the police cannot do it alone.”
“Yes, there are indications that persons might well have been assisted in getting these arms into the country. That has always been an issue. We are trying to work closer with the other agencies involved in security . . . as well as other entities to lessen that,” Griffith asserted.
The police commissioner declined to identfiy crime hotspots, but he did say that police have increased their presence in troubled communities.
“There are areas that are challenged that call for greater social intervention. There are areas that drug lords gravitate to and they have tremendous influence and you find that there’s a tendency for those crimes to be committed in those areas,” he said, adding that schools and churches have a role to play in helping to arrest the problem.
“We are looking to a greater community effort in those areas where teams of officers will be dedicated to some of those tough areas to work alongside the residents. There are good people in some of those communities. Some find it very difficult to speak out so we have to be there for them.”
On the flip side, Griffith announced a 16 per cent drop in overall crime with theft recording the largest decline. Robberies and burglaries also registered decreases.
“This is significant and unprecedented and it is occurring at a time when the country is still experiencing a difficult economic period,” he noted.
“This 16 per cent is in effect 949 crimes less than the same period last year when we recorded 5,905 crimes. Areas showing marked decline are as follows: robberies, from 299 to 185, a decrease of 114 or 38 per cent; theft from the person, from 176 to 98, a decrease of 78 or 44 per cent; burglary, from 1397 to 1083, a decrease of 365 or 26 per cent.”
The top cop said there has also been a drop in the recorded amount of drugs brought into the country, but this appears to be giving rise to local cultivation of marijuana, with some 20,000 plants seized for the year.
Griffith has, meantime, given the assurance that Barbados remains a safe destination for both locals and visitors, and urged everyone to be conscious of their surroundings and not to expose their property or themselves to potentially vulnerable situations.