Two of this island’s top law enforcement officials say they are not prepared to bury their heads in sand. In fact Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite is admitting that visitor harassment and drugs trafficking are twin evils plaguing at least two of this island’s most popular beaches, while acting Police Commissioner Tyrone Griffith is assuring that the problems are well in hand.
This follows a guided tour afforded by a senior law enforcement official to a Barbados TODAY team of Browne’s Beach, St Michael at the weekend.
While pointing out major trouble spots for him and his colleagues, the officer reported that the area had become “a big market where drug barons and their agents ply their deadly trade” both on and offshore – on the beach, as well as on boats and yachts.
“This is a major headache for members of the Royal Barbados Police Force because most of the police are on foot patrol along the beachfront,” the lawman said.
He also pointed to an area near the bandstand, located in front of Government Headquarters, where he said a group of young men “assembled every day and smoke marijuana”.
The officer, who did not want to be identified by name, also told Barbados TODAY that residents of neighbouring Bayville, New Orleans and Nelson Street districts, as well as Silver Hill in Christ Church, were the major perpetrators of crimes on the beach. He further reported that various means were used to cover for their illegal acts.
“For instance, they [perpetrators] pretend that they are playing football, but use it as a cover to kick away expensive footwear of visitors. When they have kicked the footwear a distance from the visitors who are usually sun-bathing, they then escape with the stolen property,” he said, while also complaining about taxi men “who parked their cars on Bay Street and walked between the beach chairs harassing the visitors in search of work”.
“These actions are driving away visitors from our shores. We need more manpower on this beach,” the lawman said, while highlighting a spot near the Military Cemetery and the Hilton Hotel, which he said was a “hot spot” for the sale of illicit drugs.
“Can you imagine that there is only one female National Conservation Commission ranger assigned to keep order on this stretch of beach? Drug dealers are vicious criminals and no chances can be taken with them. You need manpower to deal with them,” he added.
Asked to comment on the Browne’s Beach reports, the Attorney General readily admitted, “it’s an issue”. In fact, he said he had not only received reports about that area, but also “other beaches along that [south] corridor” and as far east as the Crane, St Philip.
“That’s also part of the challenge going on with the guys at the Boatyard. I know that they have been complaining vociferously over the last couple of years. “Crane Beach for example, over the last couple of months I have [had] some serious, serious challenges,” Brathwaite admitted.
The Cabinet Minister said that from time to time, the manager of The Crane would call him and ask for help, complaining that his guests were afraid to venture onto the beach.
“It is an issue that we need to address,” he stressed, while noting that the problem was also one of police manpower.
“Actually, the culprit is not going to wait until the police or whoever is there and offer them drugs for sale,” he acknowledged.
To demonstrate the extent of the problem, he related a story told to him by an official of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control who was recently in Barbados conducting a seminar and decided to visit one of the beaches “just to get a sense of what drugs were available”.
Afterwards, “he said ‘AG I will have to let you know, whatever I told the guy that I was interested in, he said that he could find a source for my need’,” recalled Brathwaite. The Attorney General therefore feels strongly that more attention must be paid to the illegal drug trade.
In this regard, he highlighted the National Anti-Drug Plan which he said aims to develop a more co-coordinated approach to dealing with all drug-related issues.
“From what I have been reading, given the availability of marijuana within certain states of the US, the feeling is [that] the Mexicans for example, are going to go into heavier cocaine and heroin production; which means you will have more of that stuff coming through the region.
“And as you very well know, if it passes through the region, more than likely we will have a challenge in terms of more of our people using heroine, cocaine etcetera,” said Brathwaite, adding “we know what happens when this sort of stuff hits the streets”.
However, Acting Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith gave the assurance that his officers were on top of the matter.
“Drugs has always been a problem on our streets and beaches in Barbados, but I don’t know if you can say it is a serious problem on the beaches, because we have in place members of the Force who are actively engaged in policing the beaches. I think it will be limited in that regard because of the efforts of the police officers,” Griffith added.
In the case of Browne’s Beach he acknowledged, “Persons involved in that illicit business would tend to want to ply their trade there”. However, I can assure you that we have a very strong presence there and we from time to time have been arresting persons for illicit drugs on those beaches,” the police chief stressed.
The top cop contended that this particular aspect of the drug trade was not as grave as one would believe because of the measures the Force had put in place.