Let me begin by thanking the public of Barbados for its continued support during the year. An area in which this support was most evident was in the removal of several firearms from the hands of criminals, thereby reducing the risk to innocent lives and unwarranted damage to personal and other property. It is our resolve to sustain efforts to further reduce opportunities for the importation and trafficking of illegal drugs, the magnet that continues to attract violence and other phenomenon associated with the possession and use of illicit firearms. Undoubtedly, a major concern for most Barbadians has been the level of violence played out on our streets; violence that has led to the unlawful killing of some 30 persons and serious injuries to many others.
We take note of the fact that though the police have moved swiftly to diffuse inflammatory and dangerous situations in several hotspots, there is still that underlying feeling of disquiet in some communities. This is a situation that continually engages our attention during consideration of our operational and other strategies. One of our responses to this challenge has been the increase of police visibility through static and other patrols. These commitments in resources have been supplemented by the use of intelligence driven operations that are intended to deliberately identify and apprehend persons directly linked to anti-social and violent behaviour. It is our intention to sustain and supplement our deliberately overt policing presence.
A reasonable expectation at this time of the year is an increase in opportunities for persons to engage in various social activities. These are undertakings that not only lead to an increase in vehicular and pedestrian traffic on our roads at this time of the year, but also present opportunities for criminal mischief as residential dwellings and other property become increasingly vulnerable due to the absence of a dedicated guardian. An actual increase in the volume of vehicular and other traffic increases the risk of vehicular collision and injury to persons, while the increase in vulnerability to dwellings and other property can lead to an increase in offending against these sites. I therefore urge all Barbadians to take an active part in reducing opportunities for loss of life, injury to self or other persons and loss of property through theft, negligence or other damage. These are processes that require a commitment to being responsible road users and being active participants in the process of securing personal and other property. If you must drive, please remember that sobriety increases the prospect of you reaching your destination safely, while reducing the risk of injury to self or other persons.
Undoubtedly, one of our greatest challenges continues to be our inability to make roads free from the dangers presented to road users by cyclists speeding and performing a variety of stunts in the face of on-coming motorists. These manoeuvres not only present real dangers to those who engage in such wanton acts of recklessness but also place innocent persons at risk of either injury or death. While it is true that persons continue to elude police intervention at the time of their unlawful behaviour they are still available to prosecution. We again make an appeal for these persons to desist from engaging in such reckless conduct. More importantly, we are making a continued appeal for assistance from members of the public in identifying these persons. While they might not be known to the police they are known to members of the public as they share spaces in various communities. Your assistance in helping us remove this scourge from our streets can be of value in helping us safeguard either your life or that of a loved one.
As we are all aware general elections are constitutionally due next year. Over the years, Barbadians have prided themselves on their ability to respect a democratic process that includes, free and fair elections. From a policing perspective our commitment is to ensure that these outcomes are realized in 2018.
Policing continues to be a demanding and challenging, but yet an exciting job. This year, we were again constrained by our inability to satisfy the numbers required to fully staff the Force. I remain quietly optimistic, that with the required stimulus, we can make policing sufficiently attractive to not only address our current level of attrition but at the same time provide enough incentives for more young people to pursue this line of employment.
The past year presented us with a number of challenges, most of which we have been able to overcome through partnerships that were founded on trust, a commitment to shared objectives and a genuine interest in preserving national pride and reputation as a safe place for all. As I look across the horizon of the next year, I see opportunities for us to further build on our past successes. I am particularly excited by the prospect of re-engaging with communities to continue the work of restoration where necessary, while at the same time promoting the broader ideal of community wellbeing and holistic viability. This is an endeavour that will not only require a review of our approach to the delivery of community outreach initiatives but the simultaneous participation of more state and non-state actors.
It would be remiss of me not to publicly thank our officers for their sterling performances during the year. I also take the opportunity to thank their loved ones for their understanding and sacrifices that they had to make in order for them to be of service to Barbados and our regional counterparts in times of need. Words of gratitude and recognition are also appropriate for our civilian support staff as they also made an invaluable contribution to our policing efforts during the past year.
On behalf of myself and my family I wish God’s blessings on all Barbadians. I invite your continued support for the Royal Barbados Police Force as we continue with our mission of providing the highest quality police service, in partnership with our community, for the purpose of ensuring a safe and stable environment for all. We look forward to a year of opportunities to add value to your lives through our commitment to serve and protect!