The crime situation in St. Vincent and the Grenadines “is not alarming”, Assistant Commissioner of Police Frankie Joseph has said, citing statistics that show a steady decline in the number of reported crime annually since 2010.
“However, the murder situation, the homicide situation in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, is way too high. We have always acknowledged that,” Joseph said on radio on Friday.
Joseph gave the number of reported crimes for the years 2010 (7,866), 2011 (9,342), 2012 (7,490), and 2013 (6,743).
The number of reported crimes during the first three quarters of this year was 4,681.
SVG registered 24 homicides in 2010, 21 in 2011, 28 in 2012, 24 in 2013 and 34 so far in 2014.
“If you look at that, you will see that homicides, really and truly, is what is on the rise, but the crime itself, it shows a steady decrease in the crimes,” Joseph said.
Head of the Major Crime Unit, detective Station Sergeant Trevor Bailey, who also appeared on the radio programme, attributed the falling crime to the different strategies adopted by the heads of the various police districts.
He also said that police now have more vehicles.
“That assists greatly in our patrols, the stop and searches in the district, moving aggressively towards known criminals,” Bailey said.
Police say firearms were used in 25 of the 34 homicides this year, and 10 of those killings were gang-related and another 12 related to the drug trade.
Bailey said gangs remain a challenge for law enforcement authorities.
“We have an issue with some emerging gangs here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We cannot run away from that. We see the way in which they operate. They are taking on the face of known international gangs. They have specific colours, they have specific marks, they claim certain areas as their turf, and when they speak, as if one of their members gets into an altercation with someone else, the others readily avail themselves to stand by his side — a brotherhood sort of thing,” he said as he spoke of how police determine that a homicide is gang-related.
Joseph said gangs are often attractive to students and recent graduates because the gang leaders have “resources”.
“When I say resources, I mean the actual cash. They have it at their disposal and they are using it. These persons are involved in illegal activities. That’s how they acquire their resources,” he said, adding that the illegal activities are often centred on the trade in illegal drugs.
He said that SVG is a transhipment point for cocaine, and most of the marijuana grown here is exported to markets that generate the kinds of money that producers are after.
The senior police officer said that because SVG is a multi-island nation with limited coastguard resources, it is a challenge to secure the maritime borders, through which the majority of illegal guns enter the country.
Praedial larceny also remains a challenge for police.
“It is something that we have been struggling with,” Joseph said, adding that this crime remains a challenge although the Police Force has rural constables to help fight this particular crime.
He said that while rural constables patrol agricultural districts during the day, most of the livestock and produce are in the mountains and neither the famers nor the rural constables spend the night there, and the thieves use this time to strike.
“It is very difficult to really police this and what we have been doing, we have been asking persons who normally go around and purchase animals to ask the police to accompany them when making purchases, if they are not sure that the seller is a legitimate farmer,” Joseph said.
He, however, pointed out that some persons are willing to buy stolen produce because it is cheaper.
“It is really a challenge to us. We have gone to all these persons who we know normally purchase produce, but it is difficult,” he said, adding that praedial larceny will not stop if there continues to be a market for stolen produce.