Opposition spokesperson on national security, St. Clair Leacock says part of the crime problem in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) is the government’s failure to acknowledge the problem.
The Central Kingstown MP said one of the differences between the government and the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), of which he is a vice-president, is that the opposition thinks that crime is a problem in SVG.
“The Prime Minister says that it is not a problem because once you know of a problem, is not a problem; once you know of the crisis, is not a crisis. So, he has a propaganda looking for a solution. We have solutions to real problems,” Leacock told an NDP press conference in Kingstown on Wednesday.
He noted that the 1,200 police officers in SVG are about twice the number when the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) came to office in March 2001.
“… they have doubled the force and with worse results. Crime is far worse than it was then,” Leacock said.
There has been much focus on crime in SVG, which has recorded 35 homicides so far this year, following the record 42 in 2022.
Further, the country recorded what has been described as its worst mass shooting, when unknown gunmen shot and killed five people in Kingstown last week Wednesday, July 19.
Leacock noted that Kingstown could reach out for help from the Regional Security System to get a handle on the crime situation.
But he said that the local constabulary does not have a plan to address the situation, even as Commissioner of Police Colin John has said that some of the killings are part of a drug deal dating back to 2014, when former friends became foes.
“I have spoken to people who would know and my intel tells me that they are still to deliver a crime plan in the police force as to how to go about their work,” Leacock told the media.
He said that police officers themselves would say there are ways in which they can cut some slack to deal with the crime situation.
Leacock, who attained the rank of major in the Cadet Force and has extensive training in military matters, said that a lot of the members of the specialised tactical units or the police force perform guard duties for diplomats.
“… many of them are of the view that they could be relieved of those responsibilities by franchising that out to private security companies, which themselves need to be regulated and upgraded,” Leacock said, adding, “… because sometimes when you look at some of what now passes as security companies, you feel more insecure”.
The Central Kingstown MP said there needs to be “more boots on the ground”.
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Godwin Friday told the press conference that the use of the scientific approaches to investigation is critical.
“We don’t have proper forensics here. If you’re asking about getting assistance, of course that’s an area that we would invite and welcome assistance from and we would create our own capacity in that area because obviously you have to go that way,” Friday said.
“You can’t just rely on somebody’s giving you evidence that somehow gets thrown out at some point in the court, as a witness, I mean, so those are things that need to be done,” said Friday, a lawyer who practices in the civil court.
“And it’s an area that we have said that we will give priority to because you have to detect, prosecute and convict so that you have a higher percentage of convictions, which then becomes a deterrent for persons who are of that mind to commit certain offenses.”
He said the likelihood of conviction rather than the severity of the sentence is what deters people from criminal activity.
“And if you have a situation where, 25% of the homicides you have somebody arrested, then that doesn’t really act as an effective deterrent, as if you had 65% or 80%, or any offense for that matter,” Friday said.
Earlier this year, the police chief said that investigators had laid charges in just 10 of the 42 homicides committed last year.