Acting Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith today announced an increase in crime last year when compared to 2014, saying the rise was partly attributed to gun-related violence.
In an address this morning at the opening of a two-day crime symposium for police managers at the Regional Police Training Centre at Seawell, Christ Church, Griffith did not reveal the overall crime rate for 2015 but chose instead to concentrate on the positive, boasting that despite the rise, the country did better last year in terms of the crime rate than it did in 2013.
“Our record of achievements include our ability over the past two years to maintain crime levels at their lowest within the past 15 years. It must be noted, though there was an increase in crime last year, this comes against the performance, where there was a record of 14 per cent decrease in crime the previous year,” the top cop said.
“Indeed, to put it another way, in effect, in 2015 we recorded a 6.3 per cent decrease in crime over the recorded rates in 2013.”
The acting commissioner said this was not an easy accomplishment, but that it was one in which all Barbadians could take comfort and it allowed the country to enjoy the reputation of being a safe destination for all.
He gave the assurance that the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) would not sit on its success and would work to drive down the numbers ever further.
“Though these are achievements of which we are greatly proud, we never intend to rest on our laurels. But instead, we remain committed to the search for more creative ways to improve our successes, while at the same time taking corrective action to strengthen our weaknesses,” Griffith told participants, among them operational inspectors, station sergeants, unit heads and operational sergeants.
Turning his attention to the worrying influx of imported illegal firearms, the acting commissioner emphasized that the RBPF needed the cooperation of all other law enforcement agencies in order to effectively address this major problem.
He said the Force had been doing its best to contain the number of guns on the streets, having seized 65 firearms last year, 30 more than the previous year. However, he insinuated that the police were having difficulty stemming the flow of illegal guns into the country.
“As we seized these firearms, we observed that they are pouring into the country at an extremely high rate.
“Here in Barbados we see the continued negative impact of gun-related crime as noted by the loss of life and the use of firearms to commit other crimes,” he said.
Griffith called for “full public discussion, collaboration and participation” in formulating a response to the challenge and appealed to Barbadians for support in curbing “the continued unfettered access to, and use of illegal firearms”.
He also pleaded with stakeholders to review their security apparatus in order to identify and close loopholes that were being exploited by the criminals.
“Such an intervention is required for the preservation of an environment necessary for sustainable economic activity to help halt the continual loss of human capital to violent crime and to drastically reduce the debilitating fear of crime,” Griffith contended.
The acting commissioner recommended that the outcome of the symposium should form the foundation for future analyses, provide more opportunities for consultation with stakeholders and lend to the further development of a more proactive style of policing.
In an update to the media in August, Griffith spoke of an “abundance” of illegal weapons here, which he said were entering Barbados “through legitimate ports of entry” and were creating an untenable situation.
“From an investigative view point, it is clear that there is an abundance of high calibre weapons and large quantities of available ammunition on the streets. What is also clear is that [those] weapons are not lawfully manufactured in Barbados and the wider region, so they are being smuggled into the island. Our intelligence suggests they are coming through legitimate ports of entry, either assisted by officials, or not detected by them at our borders,” he said at the time.
The top law enforcement officer also said then that the perception of crime in Barbados did not match the reality,
“You would have heard elsewhere that there was a 13 per cent increase in crime at the end of July 2015, over the said period for 2014. I think it is important to put this into context, not to adjust it. The impression could be given that this increase has been in respect of serious crimes and that is surely not the case,” the Commissioner said at the time in reference to the an earlier disclosure in Parliament by Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite that crime had gone down.
Griffith had explained that at the end of July 2015 there were 4782 cases, compared to 4312 for the corresponding period in 2014. He stated that while this represented an increase of 470 cases – or ten per cent – serious crimes contributed very little to that number.
At the time, the police chief also blamed the rise in crime on the upsurge in drug cases, explaining that the number of cases related to murder, manslaughter, rape, aggravated burglaries and burglaries were all down when compared to 2014.
There were 30 murders in 2015, three more than the previous year.