Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves. (iWN file photo)

While St. Vincent and the Grenadines recorded record levels of killings in 2016 and 2017, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves says this does not mean that a trend has started.

“It is too early to assert that the new high for both reported murders and the number occasioned by gunshot wounds represent a trend. It is important, however, that the numbers for 2016 and 2017 do not become quote-unquote the new normal.

Part of our challenge is to stem the increase and to reverse it,” he said on Wednesday in Kingstown at the opening of the two-day “National Conversation on Crime and Violence”.

“We have to reflect on guns, availability of guns,” said Gonsalves, who is also Minister of National Security, and mentioned his oft-repeated observation that SVG is located “in a dangerous neighbourhood”.

“It is well known that there has been an increase in the prevalence and incidence of violent crime in recent years throughout the Caribbean, including St. Vincent and the Grenadines and this increase in both the prevalence and incidence of violent crimes is unacceptable. It is a growing challenge for our policy makers, communities, and nations,” Gonsalves said.

The prime minister presented what he said was a brief analysis of violent crimes by interrogating the statistics in SVG in relation to murder.

“I want to focus on this particular matter since it is the one which we all are, perhaps, most concerned about without in any way diluting, diminishing our concern for other forms of criminal conduct,” he told the event, which was hosted by the St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) Christian Council in collaboration with churches, non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders,

Gonsalves said that in the years between 1990 and 2002 or thereabout, the number of murders ranged between the teens and the twenties.

“In the 13 years between 2003 and 2015, the annual number of reported murders were as follows: 11, 25, 24, 13, 36, 27, 20, 20, 25, 21, 28, 27, 37.

“Over the last 10 years, between 2008 and 2017, there was an aggregate of 289 reported murders, 157 or 54.3 per cent of which were occasioned by gunshot wounds. The average number of murdered annually between 2008 and 2017 was 28.9 — not yet 30 annually,” the prime minister said.

He noted, however, that in 2016 and 2017, there were 79 reported murders.

“Fifty-seven, or 72 per cent were by gunshot wounds. In each of these two most recent years, the annual numbers were 40 for 2016 and 39 for 2017.”

This year, so far, SVG had recorded seven murders — six of which are from gunshot wounds.

“The summary story from the data of reported murders in the last 30 or so years is as follows: in the period 1990 to 2002, the numbers alternated roughly between the teens and the 20s. In the period between 2003 to 2013, the number oscillated between the low and high 20s, except for the two years 2007 and 2014, when it jumped, respectively, to 36 and 37.”

Gonsalves said that the modal number in the period 2003 to 2015 was in the 20s.

“That’s where the cluster was. In the earlier period, 1990 to 2002, thereabout — and I put 2003 in the other time series to make this point, and I choose the words ‘alternated’ and ‘oscillated’ on purpose: in the period between 1990 and the early years of the 21st Century, the first couple years of the 21st Century, you will have in the teens one year, the next year, you will have in the 20s and it goes back into the teens, almost with a regular alternation.

“In the period up to 2015, between, say 2003 and 2015, the modal number, that is to say, the cluster of numbers predominantly in the 20s, though we have had two years in the teens, in the case of 2013, and 2011, and, in two years, in the high 30s.

“It is important for the understanding and for the analysis to see the alterations and the oscillations,” Gonsalves said.

He said that in 2016 and 2017, there were new highs of 40 and 39.

The prime minister said that the percentage of the gunshot-related murders between 2008 and 2015 was 46.7 on an average annually.

“But for the years 2016 and 2017, the numbers killed by gunshot wounds jumped to 72.

The prime minister said that as far as availability of guns goes, he would say that the countries most relevant in this respect as part of the dangerous neighbourhood are the United States, Trinidad and Tobago, Colombia and Venezuela.

He noted that in the United States, there is a constitutional right to bear arms.

“So there is a problem of the source of guns. We don’t make guns and we don’t make bullets.”

He said that one way his government has sought to make people feel safer was to take the gun licensing arrangements out of the hand of one person — the Commissioner of Police — and set up a firearm licensing authority, which includes other people.

The prime minister further said that his government invested EC$2.5 million in a shooting range to teach people how to use firearms and to make the granting of licenses “a more rational process and connected to people’s safety”.

30 replies on “PM interrogates SVG’s murder stats”

  1. Agustus Cart says:

    Hon Prime Minister Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is averaging over twenty (20) murders per one hundred thousand (100,000 )people this puts it among the 20 most muderous countries in the world.

    The problem your government has is that you do not take advice. If you really want to make a difference in the fight against crime you have to infuse the Force with at least two really good experts who can help turn around the Force. One of the biggest challenge that hampers the performance of police forces in the Caribbean is their resentment to change and skewed view of nationalism.

    Change means creating a new organizational culture, significant emphasis on training, procurement of proper resources, establishing a professional standards unit, adopting the use of advance technology, and having a rebust system that enables you to select the right mix of leadership. It would be a good idea to higher a recently retired senior British Police Officer as a change manager for the Police Force.

    Someone who has an independent view. A person who can work side by side the Commissioner to implement the reforms needed to turn around the police force. The idea is to make the force more proactive, to implement the right structure and to shred unwanted non core policing functions.

    Establishing a proper major crime investigations unit with the right resources and a properly functioning major incident room is key to solving your serious crimes. This would enable the force to have a methodical way of conducting investigations thus improving your solvability.

    If I were to pick three of these as being the most important I will say training, restructuring the organization and adopting the use of advance technology. When I talk about training, I mean Infusing the Police Force with experts from the UK and the United States to teach your Officers best practices in policing. Sourcing training from the best institutions such as the Institute for Police Technology and Management (IPTM) and the Metropolitan Police Training Academy. A more cost effective way is to bring experts from these institutions to conduct the training locally.

    It is time to adopt a new strategy towards the development of the police firce. Let’s hope we see some changes in the months and weeks ahead. Treat the police force with some love and the value it deserves. The police force is an important part of nation building. Investors usually look for a safe and secure place to invest. Visitors look for safe and secure destinations to travel. If we invest heavily in policing we would see the fruits of our labour. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines would be a lot safer place.

    1. Your main point is a good one but if we bring in experts from the USA it will only make things worse. The USA has the worst police conduct on earth, except for maybe Israel. Those riots in Fergusen were nothing to do with race even though the “Fake News” tried to make us think so. They were about the bad police conduct. Obama and George Soros tried to fool everyone when they created “Black Lives Matter” and other lives don’t matter. When a black is killed by police it is Global News. When a white, Hispanic oriental or other gets killed it will never make the news. In SVG the police that are the most brutal get the awards and promotions. This sends a wrong message and explains one of the reasons why we have such a poor police force, in spite of the great potential of many of the officers.

      1. Israel has a police and military force that are the envy of the world.

        If you want to see a wicked police force, look at Venezuela, Syria, Iran, China, and North Korea.

        Why do you always single out the Jews for verbal abuse?

  2. Cart you are so right but the ULP is deaf not only in one but in both ears. SVG by the statistics is one of the most violent places on the world . I will also add that at least 40 percent of the crimes are unreported and does not reflected in the official statistics. What about the missing persons from different areas of the country who are presumed dead and is not reflected in the official statistics. I count at least three such persons from Calliaqua, Kelbourney and Gomea.

    1. You can be sure those assassinated will never be found, it cost to much last time when the body was found.

  3. C. Ben-David says:

    Too bad the PM gave us such a narrow history lesson by failing to point out that before the 1970s, the rate of murder in SVG was one two a year at most.

  4. Brown Boy USA says:

    It is unfortunate that the PM takes such lay back view of the crime situation in SVG. Not only that, he appears to have a ‘wait and see approach’ attitude toward the crime situation. I guess he cannot see something for what it is unless it is a ‘trend’. 1 killing in a society as small as ours is a call for concern. Then to make the statement that the average number of murdered annually between 2008 and 2017 was 28.9 — not yet 30 annually, is simply outrageous. What you simply saying is that you expect it to go up to 30 murders annually but we are not there yet, therefore, we good! Furthermore, the PM deals with the crime statistics and shred no idea as to how his administration plans to curb murder rate, which leads to the assumption that they have not real plan to combat crime in SVG. According to the assumption, at least the crime rate is still below 30 annually, so we should count our blessings! Wow!!!

  5. Annis Creese says:

    Many years ago I saw there were 5 murders for the year, and I was appalled- it was too many However, recently the number is sky high. Sky high because this is my island, my patria. Perhaps a helping nation can supply 2 vessels with the correct technology to catch and detain those speed boats operators who leave the shores under darkness ploughing the waves to get to other shores to sell or exchange drugs for money and/or guns. SVG is an island full of loving people. Yes, they may argue or even fight; even wound one another, but the killing is a product of DRUGS.

    1. Totally true… It’s the root of the problem, greed, money , corruption and drugs is the breather of guns and murder..

  6. Every man is a King says:

    I live in the United States,but when I return home I want a license gun to protect myself and family.

    1. So have the 1980s and 1990s which the PM addressed. But for you everything he says are golden words while whatever I write is crap. How sensible is that?

  7. The police are so busy carrying out political activities they have no time for real crime.

    Yes SVG is in the neighbourhood of Venezuela and lots of guns flow just as the cocaine flows from our association with ALBA.

    I blame Gonsalves for both those scenarios.

    1. Good point, but remember it is the illegal guns that are the main problem. Gonsalves is right that legal guns are not really the problem and gun safety is a must. Maybe he should not have doubled the cost of gun permits recently that may encourage even law-abiding citizens to get illegal guns.

  8. It may be time for an audit on the confiscated gun locker, the cocaine went missing, how about weapons?

  9. St. Vincent does not need the help of the US or England to solve its crime problem. It only needs to do two things. The country is very small so the gunmen are known. And because SVG is poor the gunmen rob and kill for cheap goods such as cell phones. So the simplest solution here is let greed rule: offer $5000-$10000 for people to inform on the gunmen. We probably have less than 200 gunmen. Once the informers give us accurate information, pay them the big money. Then jail the gunmen for 30-40 years. That amounts to at most two million dollars to pay people to sell out the gunmen. Even at five million dollars it is still cheap. We waste a lot of money for a lot of foolishness. But with an easy five to ten thousand dollar to collect a whole heap of Vincentians will sell out anybody. Let greed prevail. But the information. Then jail the gunmen for a very long time. Within one year our crime rate would collapse.

  10. The “Church” seems to always be at the forefront of many initiatives in SVG. Which is in and of itself a good thing. Why aren’t these kinds of operations initiated in the colleges of government? The honorable PM doesn’t miss a beat in jumping on the proverbial band wagon after the fact.

  11. Gonsalves is only trying to make excuses for his poor conduct as a Prime Minister. The murder rate started to increase even more since he took office, and even more after he started his constant tax increases. There are incredibly stupid people that will say that crime has nothing to do with poverty and economics. If we listen to such people we will never solve the problem and it will only get worse. The greatest economics in the world does not mean no crime, but very bad economics always means an increase in crime. Not all poor people are criminals but it is a well established fact that there is more crime when poverty is high. This includes murder. Until Gonsalves one day changes his very poor economics and instead crafts policy that will foster job creation he will only continue to come out in public and make excuses for his poor conduct and backward policy as a Prime Minister and Saint Vincent will continue to get poorer and crime will increase.

    1. Gonsalves does not mention that before he took office the number of murders averaged below 10 and the drastic increase happened after he had his biggest tax increases in these past few years.

    2. Not even the most “incredibly stupid people” claim that “crime has nothing to do with poverty and economics.” What they deny is that crime has everything to do with economics, a view held only by “incredibly stupid people” who refuse to or are intellectually unable to understand that criminal behaviour has many causes, as the scientific literature clearly shows.

      If you studied criminology at university, as you claim, you would know this.

  12. Problems don’t fix themselves and listening to the PM I’m not hearing any implementation of solutions or strategies to combat this growing epidemic in our lovely country that the criminals seem to be destroying slowly with their lawlessness. A key part of eradicating criminal activity is also starting at the head with corrupt officials and police because criminals can’t police criminals….. Nothing will never change, for example look at Trinidad and Jamaica, corruption in the police and gov office has lead to chaos and total anarchy where ppl don’t know who to trust

  13. Mr. PM spinning those number of murders, up, down, right, left, sideways, diagonal ain’t solving the problem or giving me any additional comfort.
    The bottom line is, SVG have to much murders!
    Tell the citizenry what measures/programs you and your administration are putting in place to deal with these imps.

  14. So what is the PM going to actually do to combat the high homicide rate and the availability of illegal arms and ammo?

  15. Who decided to take the coastguard vessel out of service?That’s when all the problem started!
    Then he replace them with those small dinghy which can’t even go 10 miles off the coast…
    DREGS have that place in a mess,but people only see what they want…SMH

    1. Good point with the boat … Also a coastguard port needed on the windward end. Not sure if any in leeward side, without these steps importation of illegal weapons and drugs is very easy

  16. Amos Greaves. says:

    The comrade should listen to the professor take on crimes in St Vincent. His is really a masterpiece. He must also stop burying his head in the sand like an ostrich pretending there is no problem.

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