Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves met, on Saturday, with Commissioner of Police Colin John and the top brass of the police force to discuss crime in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which has recorded nine homicides so far this year, following a record 42 in 2022.
Three of the homicides have come within the last week, and the victims include two women. Two of the nine homicides have resulted from police shootings in the line of duty.
“I believe that we had an excellent discussion,” Gonsalves, who is also minister of national security, said in a joint video statement with the police chief, published on the Facebook page of the state-owned Agency for Public Information.
He said that some matters had to be submitted to him by Sunday “because there’s some urgency and certain things.
“I’m not going to talk in detail about operational issues. I’m not going to talk in detail about some of the initiatives, the new ones which are going to be taken,” the prime minister said.
He said residents would have noticed that there have been increased patrols in some places in the country.
“But when you quote-unquote lockdown certain areas or have a very strong presence, sometimes you have spilled over into other areas …, some persons begin to use other theatres of activities and those have to be strengthened,” Gonsalves said.
“… the homicides which have taken place in 2023 already, coming on the back of what happened last year, I think this particular meeting, this particular session, is a very important one.
“And I’m sure that the commissioner and his entire top leadership would have been reinvigorated.”
The prime minister said he would meet “sometime pretty soon” with rank-and-file members of the police force, noting that he travels to Guyana today (Sunday) and then to Bahamas, on Wednesday, to attend a CARICOM meeting.
The CARICOM meeting will also discuss issues of crime and security.
“I’ll have an opportunity to meet with people also from the European Union, from the United States of America, both as Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and as the pro tempore president of CELAC, where this particular subject, crime and security, would be one which we would explore further regional and hemispheric cooperation,” Gonsalves said.
“It is the intention of the government always and the police force not to give the criminals any space whatsoever,” the prime minister stated.
Last Wednesday, opposition spokesperson on crime, Central Kingstown MP St. Clair Leacock, said Gonsalves should resign as minister of national security and that the country should seek regional and international help in its effort to reduce the number of killings.
Then, on Friday, opposition leader, Godwin Friday called for a national event to address crime in the country.
Saturday’s meeting brought together about 30 officers of the ranks of assistant superintendent of police and above, except those who are out of state and on holidays.
Acting Superintendent of Prisons, Dwayne Bailey also attended the meeting, which Gonsalves said was “very focused” and lasted over three hours.
He said the meeting reviewed current strategies and new initiatives to be taken on several different fronts. The meeting also assessed further resources which are required.
“In addition, an operational framework for the taking of illicit firearms off the streets was discussed. There is a nine-page document on that particular initiative,” Gonsalves said.
Most of the homicides in SVG this year have included the use of a firearm.
On Jan. 24, Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browns observed that a firearm matter had come before the Serious Offences Court every day of the year up to that point. The magistrate concluded that her had become a “gun court”.
Gonsalves said that Saturday’s meeting also “reviewed how we can strengthen the area of operations and intelligence-gathering and analysis”.
He mentioned ongoing cooperation with regional and international agencies, including Regional Security System, Caribbean Community Implementation Agency for Crime and Security and countries with which SVG traditionally has had security links, namely the United States and Britain and Canada.
“There was a full and frank discussion about many of the very good things which are being done by the police and areas of weaknesses. We looked very much at ways in which programmes outside of the normal policing, which we can enhance, particularly among young people, like for instance, the Pan against Graeme, the police youth clubs.”
The prime minister said there are 27 police youth clubs in the country, each having about 30 members each, and he also spoke of the work of the Cadet Corps.
Gonsalves said that the National Commission on Crime Prevention needs refreshing, adding that the person who is in charge is going on pre-retirement leave and fresh leadership is, therefore, needed.
Updated at 10 p.m. pm Feb. 12, 2023, to correct the number of homicides in SVG this year.