Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves used his first radio appearance in 2023 to send a message to the police chief and the top brass of the constabulary: greater police presence is needed on the ground.
“I hope Colin [John] is listening to me — the Commissioner of Police and the others in the leadership at the ranks of police,” Gonsalves, who is also minister of national security, said Wednesday on NBC Radio, speaking from Guyana, where he is on an official four-day visit.
“It is true that the police are not the cause of crime or serious crimes or homicides,” he said, adding that the issue is a complicated one.
“But the presence of the police on the streets in Kingstown and across the country, and particularly in the area between let us say Stubbs and Rillan Hill, which is the most highly-populated areas of the country.
“We have enough police and enough resources for persons to be more present on the ground
to deter a man who might want to do something bad and to get the intelligence to be able to move in a proactive manner to arrest those who are engaged in serious criminal activity and especially with gun crimes.”
The prime minister said more police presence on the ground is needed because people have to feel safe.
“As I told my friend Buju (Superintendent of Police Trevor Bailey), who is in charge of Calliaqua, it cannot be acceptable that within half a mile of the station at Calliaqua, you may have somebody robbing somebody on a beach at seven o’clock in the night,” Gonsalves said.
Calliaqua, the regional capital of south-eastern St. Vincent, which is home to the island’s tourism and entertainment belt.
“So, I’m hammering that. Greater presence, and we have more than doubled the number of policemen and women and we have additional numbers this year in the budget — 50 something more.”
Gonsalves was speaking after a year in which St. Vincent and the Grenadines saw a record 42 homicides, up from the 2016 record — 40.
The prime minister said that this year, his government has allocated EC$41 million for recurrent expenditure by the police force.
He said the amount does not take into account spending on the Coast Guard and fire brigade, which are departments of the police force.
“I’m not talking about capital expenditure,” Gonsalves said, adding that the amount that technocrats had allocated for repairs of police stations in the EC$1.4 billion Estimates of Income and Expenditure for 2023 was “too puny”.
“I told the professionals to go back to the drawing board and do a complete review of all the stations. And if I have to take a supplementary set of estimates to the house, within the first quarter or whatever to deal more substantively with some of those repairs, I will do it,” Gonsalves said.
Parliament is slated to debate the EC$1.44 billion budget for 2023 next week.
“But you are not going to get me to do things in some pya-pya manner,” he said, using a colloquial term meaning “mediocre”.
“That’s not how we function. We never functioned that way. But we have about 1,200 police [officers]; we have more than 10 police officers for every 1,000 persons, which is a big number. And we will hire more as we are going to do — 53 more this year. Very shortly, we’re going to have about 115 recruits put into the training system for the next six months and so on and so forth,” the prime minister said.