A shooting incident two nights ago in one of Barbados’ more widely-recognised tourist spots has prompted Minister of Tourism Kerrie Symmonds to sound the call for beefed-up security in the area including more policemen on the beat.
He said he has communicated the need for a greater law enforcement activity in the St Lawerence Gap where the most recent incident happened as well as in other tourist hot spots.
The shooting incident which left 33-year-old Justin Griffith of Hilton Road, Christ Church nursing wounds to his back also sent tourist relaxing at Dover scampering around the vendors’ area and in fear for their lives. It is reported that a lone gunman opened fire in the normally crowded area and shot at a fleeing man.
Police reports indicate that the injured man was transported to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital by private transport.
This morning, Minister Symmonds met with members of the police force along with other tourism stakeholders at his One Barbados Place, Warren’s office to discuss the recent shooting incident and other security issues.
“There is the question of the police outpost [in St Lawrence Gap], which must be made to be more comprehensively staffed, the question of an enhanced presence, and even a greater co-operation between the Royal Barbados Police Force in terms of leading a partnership with the Barbados Defence Force,” Symmonds said.
He was speaking at the signing of an agreement between the Organisation of American States (OAS), and the Barbados Tourism Product Authority (BPTA). The Minister cautioned that Barbados was going to shoot itself in the foot if every effort is not made, at all levels of Barbadian society, to place greater emphasis on ensuring Barbados is a safe destination.
The Minister stressed that all members of society must be uncompromising about lawless individuals who feel that gunplay is a satisfactory way of conducting themselves, leaving a high price for Barbados to pay.
“It is a matter of deepest regret that there are reports going on at the start of the tourism season of continued elements of gunplay, and continued demonstrations of violence on the streets. It is bad enough that we do it amongst ourselves, but it is entirely self defeating if we are going to do it in a way that hurts the main export product of Barbados, which tourism is,” he said.
“In every instance where it happens, a negative message is being sent to the wider community, which threatens to undermine and compromise all that this country is now trying to do to pull itself up by the boot straps, and to avoid the worst possible financial circumstances and situations,” Symmonds added.
When Barbados TODAY visited the area this afternoon, frustrated vendors opposite Dover playing field cried out for a heavier police presence saying it was long overdue.
Some of the vendors recalled that it was disturbing to see traumatised tourists who were sitting enjoying a meal before the shooting, ducking, screaming, and running from the scene.
According to them for some time, a group of young men has been gathering in the area at nights making it difficult for people to access the entrance to the shops.
“I feel that they should have more police around. I believe if there were police up here more often, they wouldn’t have run through here with a gun in hand and bullets letting go. This man just come in long sleeves and start shooting, there wasn’t an argument or anything,” one vendor who requested anonymity told Barbados TODAY.
“We need police presence at all times, but mostly at nights when it is dark and they start gathering in a corner and drinking and smoking, and nobody can pass in or out properly. You have to be shouting excuse me to get a pass. Police need to come out here and shake up things. These fellas come and gather like it is a block and behave lawless. Out here is not a block, they should not be here,” another vendor added.
A taxi driver, said that while he was angry at the threat to his livelihood, he too believes that the police need to stop those who do not have good intentions from hanging out in the area.
“I need these tourists to come so I can drop them places and get paid to feed my children. If they are frighten, some of them not coming back. The police need to get out of the station and come and deal with this issue we having out here. People out here working to feed them families,” the taxi driver said.
Two female tourists could be heard discussing the incident, which they said, left them shaken up.
However, one Canadian tourist said she was not going to let what happened stop her from coming to Barbados.