One of the island’s most forthright tourism professionals is suggesting that it is time that the authorities go after the people at the top of the crime food chain and throw them all in jail.
Roseanne Myers, the general manager of Atlantis Submarines and chairman of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA), is of the view that in order to get a grip on spiralling crime the people pulling the strings must be found and put behind bars.
With the country experiencing a wave of violent crime – particularly gun related incidents – which has driven the number of murders so far this year to 26 – the latest victim being a British businessman – the BHTA themed its quarterly general meeting held yesterday at the Barbados Hilton Resort, Protecting Brand Barbados.
While Myers dealt with the issue of visitor safety, she clearly was concerned about the security of Barbadian residents, stating this must be Government’s primary preoccupation.
And in a speech in which she pulled no punches, Myers touched on an issue that many Barbadians have raised among themselves and on social media – that it was time to go after the bigwigs.
“We are clear that no one must ever be seen in Barbados as too big to jail. So we have to get some of the guys that are at the top of this chain, wherever they are. It is not just the easily influenced ones on the ground . . . . We have to see all levels being brought to the justice system,” she told the audience which included Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite, Acting Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith, Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy and other senior tourism officials in both the public and private sectors.
“Whether at the foot or head of these current chains, these persons will not destroy what we have worked to build, which is our reputation.”
Without stating how the BHTA intended to assist, Myers said the non-profit trade association would play its part in fighting crime, and called on Government, the private sector and the labour movement to work in unison to deal with the issue.
So far this year there have been 188 reported incidents of crime against visitors, on track to surpass the 205 for all of last year, but unlikely to top the 294 reported in 2014. There were 249 such incidents in 2015.
Myers said she was not overly concerned about the number of incidents against visitors – most of which have been burglaries, according to Brathwaite – because the statistics reflected “a very controlled and enviable situation when we look across the world”.
Instead, she appealed to the authorities to fix the problem at home and visitors would reap the benefits of a safer Barbados.
“Yes, we have some issues and we have to deal with those issues, harassment being one, but we are alarmed at the incidents in our villages where we live. It is not about what is happening to tourists. That is not why we are here. We are talking about the neighbourhoods where we live and where our employees live. We have to keep it safe for them,” Myers insisted.
However, Brathwaite took a somewhat different approach, stating that both residents and visitors were of “equal concern” to Government on the issue of crime.
The attorney general reminded the audience that the tourism industry, the island’s main source of foreign exchange, was “highly sensitive” and therefore there were “natural concerns” about tourists’ safety.
“Crime and violence carry with it high economic costs, including a severe impact on foreign investment and tourism. Foreign direct investment in Barbados is trending in the right direction with most of this investment channelled to the tourism industry,” Brathwaite said, adding: “The fact that there is an increase in crime and the potential to have negative reports in our foreign source markets means that we need to do all that we can, not to muzzle reports, but to see how we can address any perceived rise in crime that we are seeing this year.”
The country’s top legal advisor also said the tourism sector ought to play a greater role in minimizing crime against visitors, recommending for example, that hotels should educate their guests about their safety and security responsibilities without hurting the customers experience.
He also advised hoteliers to take advantage of duty-free concessions of electronic equipment to increase safety and security and to hire properly trained security officers.