Member of Parliament for St Philip South Indar Weir is expressing concern about rising gun violence in the parish – even as he gives residents the assurance that they are safe.
Of the record 35 murders so far, eight of them were in St Philip.
During the second of a series of town hall meetings at the Rices Methodist Church on Sunday, Weir, the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, said the issue of crime and violence was “high on the agenda in St Philip”.
He told the audience: “Just like all of you, I am deeply concerned about what is taking place in St Philip.
“As a matter of fact, I have already said, St Philip now can be seen as a hotspot.”
Despite this, the minister sought to assuage the concerns of residents, declaring that they were “still pretty safe” because the police were doing all they could to tackle the issue.
He told residents: “Even though you may not see a police vehicle, and even though you may not see a police in uniform it doesn’t mean that St Philip isn’t being monitored.
“That I know with every degree of confidence, is taking place, even as we speak.
“I want to assure you that the Royal Barbados Police Force is doing everything that it possibly can to address what is taking place in St Philip and to address gun violence in St Philip.
“It is not just St Philip south, it is the entire parish.”
He said the Labour Party administration was keen on addressing what it considered the root causes of gun violence across the nation.
Adding that while it was the duty of the government of the day to take leadership in addressing current issues, Weir said he wanted parents to also play a role by applying a measure of discipline.
The MP said: “I am of the firm belief that if we create opportunities for our young people and our people, in general, to participate in the ownership structure of Barbados where they are actually part of the economic structure of this country, a different mindset will permeate this country. But the moment a man feels there is no hope for me the first blame goes to the system.”
The police southern division’s commander, Senior Superintendent Bruce Rowe, described crime in the nation’s largest parish as “expansive” and “intensive”, declaring that he has never seen this degree of crime in his more than 40 years in the force.
He said: “It is a fact, and a serious one that we are faced with – the type of gun violence we are facing today.”
The southern division covers St Philip, St John, St George, and a part of Christ Church.
Though expressing disgust and concern over the number of murders in the parish and across the country for the year so far, Senior Superintendent Rowe also gave residents the assurance that both the police and army were working diligently to tackle the problem.
He reported an increase of about 43 serious crimes in the parish so far this year but did not give a comparative figure.
Rowe said: “I am not dealing with praedial larceny, but serious crimes that involved the use of weapons over this same period last year in St Philip.
“At this juncture last year we had experienced no murders in St Philip, none whatsoever, Today we face eight – seven of them by the gun.
“That is one side. The other side shows that my officers are working.
“We have tripled the persons we have charged for gun-related offences in the St Philip area.
“What is that saying to us? That we have to really do a lot of work.
“We have to work with the young people now to try and stop them from an early stage from getting involved in crime.”
Welcoming the town hall meeting with residents, the senior police officer insisted that the crimes committed in St Philip were by people who were ”not really born and raised in the area” but had “migrated through involvement with the opposite sex, friends and all that and they bring their distasteful behaviour from other areas to St Philip”.
The father of four urged parents to get back to days when their children could talk to them about anything, adding that parents should check on their children’s activities and question them when they come home with expensive items.
“We need to set guidelines to operate by,” said Rowe, as he called on households to build good relationships with each other in the community.
He also used the occasion to advise residents to change up their daily routines in an effort to deter potential crime.