Amid a “rough” spate of gun attacks and daring burglaries and robberies, merchants in the capital have told Barbados TODAY they have beefed up security to protect their staff, stock and customers.
And they have made pleas for law enforcement officials to do the same in The City and around other commercial hubs.
At fabric chain Abeds, store manager for the Swan Street branch Hassan Towini indicated that the news of brazen robberies over the past few weeks has been extremely worrying.
“It is very rough right now. We have heard all of the stories and we have to make sure our business is safe,” he said.
Towini said Abeds was taking the issue of security very seriously and called on the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) to play a greater role as well.
“On our side, we want to make sure that we have more security guards in our store,” he told Barbados TODAY. “We would like to have the number of police officers increased in Swan Street. We have a lot of people and large crowds,” said Towini admitting that two security guards may no longer be enough to protect the store.
Despite the crime wave, Towini still believes Barbados remains much safer than other countries.
“Barbados to me is a safe country, better than any other country, but we’re trying to keep it safe as much as we can.”
Managing Director of Woolworth Martin Bryan says his business is doubling down on security and is confident in the measures currently being taken by management to combat the situation.
“There’s cause for concern, especially where safety is concerned with our staff and with our customers. If someone is coming in broad daylight to stick up someone with a gun, we have procedures in place so our staff knows what to do in that event,” said Bryan.
While not expecting that kind of brazen crime to strike his store during the holiday season increased security is always a priority, he said.
“We have made arrangements with one of the security companies to come and remove our cash on a daily basis, so we are increasing the presence of that to make sure there’s a lot less cash on the premises during this busy time.
“We also have a lot of cameras in store and outside of the store that are [turned] on 24/7 so that if something occurs, we would have the perpetrators on camera,” said Bryan.
Along main thoroughfare Broad Street, the owner of a jewellery store expressed great fear about the likely impact of workers being placed on the breadline weeks before Christmas.
He surmised that on one hand the joblessness is bad for profits, but could also result in even more crime – prompting him to join the chorus of calls for more police protection.
“We need more policemen on Broad Street from the beginning to the end and we need on Swan Street in the different lanes so that if they rob us and they run, police will be alert and can catch the guys immediately,” he said.
He also criticized Government for worsening the desperate situation by laying off workers at what he considered a bad time.
“They mentioned 15 to 18-hundred people [would be laid-off]. So where there’s a family of four, it means you’re looking at six to seven thousand people who may not have food in the house.
“I don’t know what’s happening, they should have done that… in January or February, but they have done that before Christmas, so we don’t know how Christmas is going to go.”
The spate of robberies turned deadly last week Thursday when 50-year-old vendor Hayden Mayers was gunned down mere feet from the van where he sold bread and pastries in Mansion Road, Bank Hall, St Michael. Police this week arrested four young men in connection with his slaying.
Since Mayers’ death, Colombian Emeralds at Cave Shepherd’s Sunset Crest branch, RBs Rotisserie at Clapham Court Mall, St Michael, Kim’s Bar in Flat Rock, St George, and Zephirin’s Bakery on Tudor Bridge, St Michael have fallen prey to violent robberies and daring burglaries.
The crimes have prompted calls from the RBPF for businesses to be more alert.
Police spokesman Sergeant Michael Blackman this week advised the business community to “be more vigilant with regard to their surroundings and to take appropriate steps to enhance their security capabilities”.