With only two thirds of the 30 murders committed here last year already solved, Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs Adriel Brathwaite today expressed concern that Barbadians were seemingly less inclined to cooperate with the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) and are more willing to engage in vigilante justice.
However, as he led off debate in Parliament this morning on the Police Amendment Bill, Brathwaite said he remained satisfied that “crime is not at a runaway stage” on the island, which has traditionally enjoyed a relatively “stable” crime rate, when compared to other countries in the region.
Of the 30 murders recorded last year, about 70 per cent were gun related. The gun was also the weapon of choice used to commit 318 crimes, including aggravated burglary, endangering life, robbery and assault with intent to rob, which contributed to a 57 per cent spike in gun crimes last year.
In all over 90 firearms were seized, along with more than 2,700 rounds of ammunition, with the RBPF only managing to solve 67 per cent of murders last year, down from an average 95 per cent success rate.
However, Brathwaite said this was not a reflection of the police not doing their jobs, but one of people not cooperating with law enforcement.
“You might see last year that we had 30 murders. You may also see that probably about 19 or 20 of them have been solved. And you think this is unusual for Barbados. But it is not that the police are not doing their jobs, or the police didn’t have a fair idea of who they were looking for, but the guys can tell you that, ‘so and so who got shot two weeks ago, he is the guy [the police] had their eyes on,’” Brathwaite said, adding that “we have to work on that because that is not a good direction that we are heading in as a country”.
Highlighting the direct link between crime, guns and illegal drugs, Brathwaite said he was concerned about the rise in the number of robberies.
However, he said, “the reality is that we have not, as a country, reached a stage where we need to panic about the issue of crime.
“For the last two years what we are seeing, and what concerns us as policymakers is the fact that it seems like individuals are no longer willing to cooperate with the police as they were in the past. So you come to a scene and the guys there say they don’t know anything about it, but then two weeks later someone else is killed and then you hear thorough the grapevine, ‘he is the guy who committed the murder two weeks ago,’” the Attorney General said.
“So it seems like we have a situation now where guys are willing to administer their type of justice and that concerns us as policymakers and should concern all of us because that is what led to fiasco, that blot on our landscape [on] Kadooment Day where those 19 innocent bystanders received injuries of various kinds,” he added.
Last Kadooment, during the climax of this island’s premier carnival, gunmen shot and killed 20-year-old Taried Junior Rock and injured several others, including a six-year-old boy who was grazed by a bullet.
By the end of December, police had arrested and charged seven men in connection with the mass shooting, which left the country in shock and disbelief.
“It is fair to say we now have a more difficult individual to deal with. In fact it seems to me that we have many individuals who have adopted that kind of live hard, die hard policy. And when you are faced with these individuals you have to have new policies to intervene,” Brathwaite said.
The Police Amendment Bill seeks to increase “the statutory powers granted to the Commissioner and the RBPF to protect life and property of citizens, to ensure peace and public order under the Act with the use of cordons and curfews, and to provide for related matters”.
Among other things it will give police the power to stop and search an individual or their property during a curfew or in a cordoned off area, upon “reasonable suspicion that the person has committed an arrestable offence”.
It also gives the Force power to search a property in the area of a curfew between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. without a warrant once there is “reasonable suspicion that an offence has been committed, is being committed or is about to be committed on the premises”.