The recent spate of gun crimes is not sitting well with key players in at least two sectors and they want more done to bring perpetrators to justice.
Officials of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS), which represent farmers, and the Barbados Petroleum Dealers Association, the umbrella body for operators of service stations told Barbados TODAY the situation was worrying, and protecting workers and their businesses was now paramount.
Expressing disgust at last Friday’s fatal shooting of 23-year-old Jamal Worrell at the Bleak in St Peter while he was working at a farm, chief executive officer of the BAS James Paul said that the incident was a painful reminder of the risk facing the island’s agricultural workers.
“The fact that they are now using guns and taking the lives of farmers in the way that they took that young man’s life is something that we all have to condemn. It is heart-rending to see a young man lose his life [like this] and that is something that farmers have to come to terms with. In this kind of environment, they are extremely vulnerable.”
Paul lamented that crime in the agricultural sector had been treated far too lightly, citing the problem of predial larceny, which he stressed remained a major headache for farmers.
“We always take it as a joke where people would go on farms and steal, but I think what is happening is that you have wicked people out there who think farmers are easy prey and as a society we have to take a stand against it. You cannot continue to have people thinking they can go on farms and steal people’s produce and increasingly you cannot do much to protect the community. The whole feature of guns and the fact that people are willing to use guns in these robberies to get what they want. It is alarming.”
The BAS CEO called for tougher gun laws to tackle the problem while urging Barbadians to look out for each other.
“I think that we should do everything possible to bring the perpetrators to justice. We have to look at the type of legislation we have to stop people from getting illegal weapons. Barbadians have a role to play too. We have to be our brothers’ keeper. When you have lawless elements in the community that engage in these acts, we have to take a stand. Farmers are ending up being the victims of a lawless minority who in most cases don’t want to work.”
Paul, who is currently in Jamaica, said the BAS, which is scheduled to hold its annual general meeting on October 17, will discuss the issue and advise farmers on how to better protect their property and livelihoods.
Meanwhile, hot on the heels of the robbery of the Rubis gas station in Bentham’s St Lucy yesterday, acting president of the Barbados Petroleum Dealers Association Aldo Ho-Kong-King told Barbados TODAY the island’s service stations have already stepped up their security.
“We are very concerned. Yes about the spate of recent robberies at gas stations, but also about the increase in criminal activity that is occurring across the island.”
While he declined to outline specific measures, he stressed they were not taking any chances.
“There are security measures that dealers have been looking to put in place; a lot of them we prefer not to talk about because they are security measures. But I would say that in the past whenever there has been increased criminal activity or issues regarding the service stations we have worked very closely with police on specific things. Some that I can talk about are increased patrols and police have had training seminars specific to the service station.
Ho-Kong-King could not put a dollar figure to losses sustained by members of the association but he assured that operators were giving their full attention to protecting their employees and businesses.
“We are very aware of the situation and we are quietly putting measures in place to deal with problem. We are also looking forward to working with police closely on these initiatives to try and create safer stations.”