Criminals here are not thinking twice about using public events as the launching pad from which to exact revenge on their enemies, or to try to take out their rivals, according to the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF).
And as they become more brazen in their approach, they are not shy to openly shoot their targets, many of whom attract the violence onto themselves, Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith has said.
“There is growing evidence that the hosting of some public events, especially cruises and open-air fetes, are now being used as the platform for the commission of violent crimes involving the use of firearms. Our intelligence suggests that rival groups use these gatherings as an opportunity to either exact revenge or resolve disputes through the use of violence,” the police chief told a news conference this morning at Police Headquarters on Roebuck Street, The City, where he delivered a report on the crime situation here during the first half of this year.
“What we are observing is that there are criminals who are bolder and they are prepared to exact their vengeance at any opportune time. However, we also note that much of the victims of these crimes have also been responsible for attracting this kind of conduct toward themselves,” he added, without going into details.
The police chief said crime in Barbados remained at a “manageable level”, with an overall 4.3 per cent decline between January and June this year when compared to the same period last year.
However, he said the increasing use of firearms remained a major area of concern for lawmen, who also had to contend with a public that was less willing than in the past to share information.
“These criminals are emboldened where citizens, whether through fear, perceived consequential physical violence, greed or other inducements, deliberately choose to remain silent. This should never be an acceptable norm within our society,” Griffith said.
“We again make a direct appeal for members of the public to share all information that would not only lead to the resolution of a criminal matter, but more importantly, ensure justice is done, and the maintenance of a safe environment for all.”
Over the past year there has been an apparent rise in violence aboard local cruises, while several events this year have been marred by violence.
Two Fridays ago 26-year-old Donason Ricardo Husbands of Fairfield Road, Black Rock, St Michael was shot and killed after disembarking the MV Dream Chaser at the end of a cruise. Another man was shot and injured.
That incident came on the heels of a stabbing last month, which marred an afternoon cruise aboard the popular party boat, which sent patrons into an immediate state of shock and panic.
Griffith said as at the end of June there were 4,054 reported crimes compared to 4,236 for the same period last year, with a decrease in all the major categories, including murder, rape, robbery, theft from the person and aggravated burglary.
However, he said murder remained a concern, with 17 committed as at the end of June this year – 13 males and four females – compared to 19 recorded for the same period in 2017.
At the same time, Griffith described a “disturbing trend of illegal firearm use”, adding that the major contributors to crime during the review period continued to be theft related offences, which were responsible for 23.9 per cent of all crimes during the six-month period.
Drug related offences were responsible for 18.7 per cent, assaults and wounding accounted for 14.5 per cent and residential burglary, 11.7 per cent. He did not give a breakdown for the remaining 31 per cent of offences.
The commissioner said while there was an approximately 36 per cent decrease in firearms enabled crime, from 184 last year to 118 this year, he remained concerned about that mode of criminality “especially as it relates to murders, robbery and acts of endangering life”.
“Our objective to remove these illegal weapons from the arms of the criminal cannot be effectively achieved without of the support of the public. Hence, there must be mutual trust between law enforcement and the public, resulting in timely exchange of information. Thereafter, there must be an effective and fully functioning criminal justice system,” he said.
So far for the year police have removed 44 illegal firearms and 1,505 assorted ammunition from the streets, compared to the 40 illegal firearms and 1,142 ammunitions recovered in 2017.
“I note that in the recovery of these firearms, five of these weapons are high powered weapons, weapons more associated with war zones and that is a disturbing trend I must say,” said Griffith, who did not provide figures but said some of the weapons were intercepted at the ports of entry.
“Weapons continue to come through our legitimate ports. We have been working closely with our sister agencies and partners to ensure that there is effective cooperation and collaboration at our points of entry. However, there could be greater cooperation I must say, but that is a work in progress.”
The island’s most senior police officer repeatedly appealed to the public for assistance, complaining that wanted persons were being “facilitated and supported” by the public from time to time.
He said the RBPF was doing a lot to get a grip on crime, particularly illegal guns, but said “we need the help of the public in that regard and there is no better way”.
“We need the cooperation. We don’t manufacturer guns but guns are coming in. So we need that support at the points of entry from others who work in those areas, but we also need the public support to get rid of those that are already in,” Griffith said.