Residents of two neighbouring St James communities are working with law enforcement officials to nab an armed robber who has been terrorising the area and targeting women in recent weeks.
However, Member of Parliament for the constituency Sandra Husbands said contrary to social media reports, there is no evidence to suggest that the alleged perpetrator is of Haitian descent.
During an interview on Monday, she told Barbados TODAY that at least five women were attacked in recent weeks, at least one of them sustaining minor injuries, in Wanstead and Husbands. In most cases, the offender seemed to be after handbags and other valuables.
Some residents were so concerned about the situation that they called for a meeting with the St James South MP who is also the Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade. On Saturday evening, the Queen’s College auditorium was packed with concerned residents, community leaders and officials from the Barbados Police Service eager to address the issue.
“[The perpetrator] has been approaching people with something like a weapon in their hand, and the weapon may just be like a piece of metal iron or a screwdriver or something; because it’s dark outside, they [the victims] are not sure,” Husbands explained.
“Most of them weren’t struck or hurt; only one, to my knowledge, was struck. So we moved on it very quickly because whenever I heard of the attacks, I went out to visit and follow up with the police. But by the time we got to number three, we realised that we have a real, persistent problem here, and that is what led to the meeting at Queen’s College on Saturday.
“The police have stepped up their engagement with the problem and came out in full force for that meeting, although it was at short notice, and shared a lot with the residents about their security risks, things they need to avoid, and also to share what they were doing in response to the issue,” Husbands added.
Warnings about the perpetrator have been posted on social media, with one person cautioning Twitter users living in Wanstead and Husbands to be careful because a “dark-skinned, round face, about 5’8 man who is middle-aged and of a thick structure” was robbing women.
The social media user and others also alleged that the perpetrator had a Haitian accent. This led to speculation that the culprit may have been one of the Haitians evicted two weeks ago from the Wanstead Gardens apartment in which they were staying while awaiting documents to travel to Guyana and Brazil.
Husbands, however, declared that after discussing the matter at length with law enforcement, there was absolutely no evidence to support the claims or to narrow down the search without sufficient evidence.
“I think the only thing that led people to think that was that the [perpetrator] didn’t speak,” she said.
“So I don’t know that you could take that somewhere, and the police… don’t seem to be caught by that notion, I suppose, because in the past it has been easy to make connections that may not be there.
“You don’t want to go accusing a community where you don’t have the evidence of it. You don’t want to do that, and I would suggest that we don’t put the notion out there because once you start doing that, you shut your eyes to other people who might be doing it,” Husbands added.
Another social media user revealed that she had encountered a man outside her window that she said was definitely Barbadian.
Police Public Relations Officer, Acting Inspector Rodney Inniss was looking into the matter but had not responded to requests for comment up to the time of publication.
Husbands also said that police had not confirmed claims of sexual violence by the perpetrators on social media.
“The first thing I saw anything about sexual [violence] was on social media today, but that hasn’t formed any part of the reports that I have gotten, nor did the police who shared with us on Saturday indicate that there was any such move. They did not report that at all, so I don’t know if it was just the apprehension of it because it was a female versus a male situation,” she said.
The MP, however, promised to engage neighbourhood watch groups in the surrounding area, monitor cameras, and collaborate on the reporting of suspicious behaviour.
She warned against pursuing alleged perpetrators, despite numerous declarations from residents on social media that they would.
“If you see something, take a photo if you can. Call the police and the neighbourhood watch right away so that they can check any of the cameras along that area to see if they can pick up or get a better photo of the person,” Husbands advised.
“Later this week, I will be pulling in all of the neighbourhood watch coordinators; we will talk through the strategies that we would want the neighbourhood to discuss and cement, and then they will call all community meetings in their neighbourhoods to discuss and work through how they will be implemented.” [email protected]