Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves says his government is pursuing “a clear strategy” in handling crime, even as the country has registered a record 52 homicides, 10 more than the record set last year, and a number of non-fatal shootings.
“There’s a clear strategy which the state is pursuing and there are tactics within that strategy,” Gonsalves, who is also minister of national security, told the media on Thursday, during a week in which six people were shot and two of them died.
“… we have gone to Parliament from 2003 with a 14-point strategy and that has been amended and with an action plan and it changes as we go over,” the prime minister said as he briefed the media following a trip to Dubai, where he attended the global climate talks.
“But there are certain things which remain central,” he said, adding that it requires “an all-of-nation approach.
“And when I say all-of-nation, I don’t mean political parties must get together and there be grandstanding by one side or the other and people seek an advantage. I’m talking about real flesh and blood people organised in families, in schools, in churches, in the community.”
Gonsalves said families have an important role to play, especially in how young men are raised.
He also described as important the roles of schools, churches and communities.
“There are some communities in which a culture of some criminal activity has developed more than in other areas. But all communities have very good people, the majority of the people are good people and they have to work to help in each community.”
Gonsalves said the state has an important role to play through the police, the Coast Guard, the prisons, the law courts, the prosecution service, and regional institutions, like the Regional Security System, Caribbean Community Implementation Agency for Crime and Security and cooperation with international bodies in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and France and with Interpol.
The prime minister said he received a letter in late September from the president of Interpol Major General Ahmed Naser Al-Raisi.
“Of course, I want to see if we can have an officer be seconded to Interpol. I’m exploring this. The Commissioner [of Police] and I have to talk more about this,” Gonsalves said.
“In short, totally, to deal with all of the various elements. I mean, in the budget, we spend a lot of money on the police. The size of the police now is more than twice it was in 2000, even though the population has remained basically flat.
“We train people more and better; there is better equipment. There are areas where some facilities need further improvement. We’re working on those. And I can’t talk about everything that is being done but a lot of resources are being put to the police, the Coast Guard,” the prime minister said.
He said that the police have asked that, among other things, Budget 2024 provide for 18 new vehicles.
“I gave instructions for them to put 15 in the budget — $1.5 million. … Of course, when they get the vehicles, you have to use them properly. And there are lots of tools which we’re using,” the prime minister said, adding that scanners have been ordered for the ports to help with the inspection of containers and boxes.
“… we have to make sure that we have greater cooperation with the United States of America out of where most of the guns come,” Gonsalves said.