Police in St. Vincent and the Grenadines have arrested and charged 11 people for murder in 2022, when the country recorded a record 42 murders.
And so far this year, police have categorised 49 of the 52 killings as murder, and have charged 13 people as the homicide count had shattered the 2022 record.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, responding to a question from opposition lawmaker Fitz Bramble, told Parliament today (Tuesday) that investigators are awaiting forensic and ballistic reports in connection with a number of killings over the last two years.
Bramble who is MP for for East Kingstown asked Gonsalves, who is also minister of national security, airports, legal affairs and information, to explain the record number of homicides committed last year, 2022 and this year 2023; the number of arrests made in relation to these homicides; and whether the country is equipped to effectively address the current crime situation whether the country needs to seek external assistance.
Gonsalves said there were 42 cases which were listed as murders by the police in 2022.
Of these, 28 were gun-related, five were stabbings, five trauma, one strangulation, two chop wounds and one by way of severe burns.
The prime minister said that so far this year, 49 cases have been listed by the police as cases for investigation for murder.
“I noticed that the media will say homicides but not every homicide is a case of possible murder,” Gonsalves said.
“Because there are other categories of homicide other than murder, obviously; one for instance manslaughter; others too, but I’m just given by way of examples.”
The national security minister said that in 2022, 11 people were arrested and charged for murder while19 were arrested on suspicion but not charged.
“And all the cases are under investigation and I was informed by the police commissioner that there are several of them where they are near to arrest, both for outstanding ones from 22 and 23,” the prime minister told Parliament.
He said that so far this year, 13 people were arrested for murders committed this year, while 18 were arrested on suspicion but not charged.
“Sometimes …, the police may have a knowledge that a particular person is guilty but may not have credible, admissible evidence to bring a charge because you need to have credible evidence which is admissible.,” Gonsalves said.
“For 2023 forensic reports are pending in seven of these matters in addition to six for ballistic reports.”
He said that every country in the world needs to have cooperation “on matters criminal” and that is why St. Vincent and the Grenadines is part of the Regional Security System, the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security and among others, Interpol.
“But St. Vincent and the Grenadines with the support of other agencies, including intelligence agencies as Assistant Commissioner Bailey pointed out recently are at the place to handle what comes to the police,” Gonsalves said.
“But clearly, you cannot avoid your family responsibility in taking care of a child, for instance, up to the age of 14 and then when he becomes quote-unquote uncontrollable, uncontrollable say, ‘That ain’t my problem now. That is Ralph problem.’
“Well, it’s all of our challenge,” the prime minister said, telling lawmakers, “And we must address these matters intelligently without any kind of political grandstanding.”
Correction: The original version of this article stated the homicide count at the time as 51. It was actually 52.