The Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force is refining a strategic crime prevention plan that includes increased use of technology, the reintroduction of a K-9 unit, and expanded witness protection initiatives.
Acting Commissioner of Police Colin John, on Monday, gave insights into the plan, which he said the top brass has been discussing and will soon go to rank and file members for their input.
John said the plan includes improving the information technology department of the police force.
“We know that most crime right now, they are either committed [using] an electronic device or they are facilitated by that electronic device. So, we are looking at improving the capability of the IT department.”
He said that the police force is in the process of getting its K-9 unit back up and running.
“We have seen the success of countries like Antigua where they have interdicted like firearms and drugs, coming through the port.”
The police chief said they have credible information that firearms are being imported in appliances such as washing machines and doors.
“So, with the assistance of the K-9 unit, we can really enhance [interception of] the amount of drugs and guns that enters St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
The commissioner said that the force intends to enhance the witness protection programme.
“There is one currently and it is really our intention to enhance that, also to make more use of the Witness Special Measures [Act].”
John said that this is a law in SVG, where persons, at the extreme, can give evidence anonymously or via video link from an undisclosed location, or their identity is withheld and their voice masked.
“Only the magistrate and the lawyers who are directly involved in the case [would know the witness’ identify] and it would be expected that the level of integrity would be maintained.
“So, this would even override the client-lawyer privilege, in terms of divulging that information,” said John, a lawyer and former prosecutor.
He said that the police intend to continue to use the mechanism in place for the electronic interviewing of suspects in serious crimes.
“We have found that by using that, we have in the court a lot more guilty pleas because persons can no longer go before the jury and say that the police beat them into admitting to an offence, because everything is now videotaped and you see the interaction between the police and the suspect.
“So that had resulted in significantly more convictions and a lot more guilty pleas when lawyers see the way in which their client interacted at the interview and they actually admitted without being pressed to give those confessions.”
John said that the numbers show that crime has decreased in SVG.
“Statistics show that really there is a decrease in crime generally, but, last year, we had 39 murders, the year before, we had 40.
“We are trying to make sure that it stays below that. Last year this time, we had, I think, about 24. We have current 22, based on my last count.
“We have to put things in place to make sure that it is kept to a minimum and, it is my hope and we are working toward that, in terms of gathering intelligence and patrols and targeted searches to try as far as possible to keep it as low as possible. My hope is for it to be at least below 30.”
John said that the force can always use additional vehicles but rejected the excuse that is sometimes given to the public that police officers cannot respond because they don’t have access to a vehicle at a material time.
“But I think that we have vehicles that once they are deployed properly, we can really manage the crime situation and respond adequately.”
He acknowledged that the crime situation in the country has generated an element of fear among residents.
“I cannot say that the perception is the reality but the fact that the public is concerned about their safety it is something that we, as police officers, we have to make sure that we deal with.
“We cannot sweep it under the carpet and say, ‘Well, it is not so we don’t care about it.’
“We have to make sure that the public feels safe, feel that they are able to go about their business with comfort and with some level of ease without having to look over their shoulder, wondering if this thing would happen to them or that thing would happen to them. It is a concern for us and it is something we are addressing at the moment.”
The police chief used the opportunity to reassure the public that the police force is addressing the issue of crime.
“I just want to say to Vincentians that the police, we are doing all within our powers. We are making sure that we increase the patrols, we are making sure that we improve on the targeted searches, we are utilising the technology that is available to solve crime, we are encouraging persons to set up CCTV.”
He said that the police force has spoken to the Chamber of Commerce, noting the duty-free allowances for businesses that import cameras and other equipment for the security of their establishments.
“We are also thanking the public for their continued support and continued information to the members of the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force,” John said.