Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith is sending a strong warning to licensed gun owners that they must not feel so empowered by their weapons that they develop a false sense of security, particularly in light of the increased use of high-powered firearms by those committing crimes.
Griffith’s comments come in the wake of a daring armed robbery of food vendor David Benn at Brittons Hill, St Michael last Saturday, during which a licensed firearm was reportedly among the items stolen.
Speaking to the media this morning following a police walk-through of Bridgetown, the top cop would not confirm the theft of the firearm on the grounds that the investigation was ongoing.
However, he warned that legally owning a gun was not the be all and end all in the fight against crime. “A licensed firearm is not the answer to any crime. It can be of assistance in foiling crimes, but management of a firearm is important and if you have a firearm you still have to be aware of the surroundings and the things that can happen,” Griffith said.
“So if you are caught off guard, having a firearm is really not being to your benefit. So yes, some people are deserving of having firearms, but they need to be managed and persons must realize that it is not all there is to stopping crime,” he added.
Following his harrowing experience, Benn, who has been selling food from the same spot in Britton’s Cross Road for the last 22 years, told Barbados TODAY last Monday that it was the first time his business had fallen prey to thieves.
He revealed then that three gunmen had made off with almost $3,000 in cash, cellphones and jewellery from his business and fewer than a dozen patrons, as well as a registered firearm belonging to his brother.
Police have since arrested 16-year-old Ajani Anthony Brathwaite of Hillbury Road, Brittons Hill and 21-year-old Adrian Romario Mottley of #13 Watermill Place, Bayville, St Michael in connection with the robbery.
The two were jointly charged with one count of assault with intent to rob; one count of theft and two counts of robbery. They also face six other counts of robbery.
Lawmen have said the search was still actively on for other perpetrators.
It was only last week that Acting Assistant Commissioner of Police responsible for Crime Colvin Bishop announced during a press briefing at Police Headquarters on Roebuck Street, The City, that gun crimes had climbed by 57 per cent as of the end of November, when compared to the same period last year.
Three hundred and eighteen crimes were committed with the use of firearms as compared with 202 for the same period in the year 2016, Bishop told journalists.
He said then that the gun was a weapon of choice in the commission of offences such as murder, aggravated burglary, endangering life, robbery and assault with intent to rob.
Although he did not give a breakdown of the number of the various crimes in which firearms were used, official police statistics show that of the 28 murders so far this year, 22 were gun related.
With the steep climb in the number of such crimes, Bishop reported a 28 per cent increase in the number of illegal guns seized so far this year, and a 15 per cent rise in the number of cases brought before the courts, the result of stepped up anti-gun operations and recent tours of troubled communities, he said.
This morning Griffith stated that while gun crimes continued to be of serious concern, he was pleased with the speed at which officers were wrapping up these matters.
“Gun crimes is still of major interest to us but we are doing things to combat that. Two persons have been arrested and charged with the Britton’s Hill matter and other robberies. We don’t like crime to happen but we are certainly working assiduously to ensure that we solve those matters and in solving those matters it means that for some period of time those people are out of the way and this will certainly impact the level of crime with guns,” the top cop said, adding that increased police presence in The City and around the island has had a marked impact on crime levels this Christmas season.
“As usual in this time of the year we heighten our patrol and we have an intensified police effort, especially in Bridgetown. So far we can say that the increased patrol has impacted positively in terms of incidence of crime in The City. It really has been very low, no real crime attributed to the increased shopping activity.”
Griffith emphasized the need to shoppers to be mindful of the fact that “there are persons who will want to relieve them of their property” during the Christmas season.