Declaring that “Barbados is safe” and appealing for patience to allow recent legislative amendments to have the intended effect on criminal behaviours, Attorney General Dale Marshall has dismissed any notion that Operation Restore Order will not serve its purpose.
“Barbados is safe. It is safe. You are able to go around and go about your business,” declared Marshall in the aftermath of recent back-to-back shootings, one of which took the life of a 40-year-old man in his home 48 hours ago.
Moreover, Marshall told journalists that he remained confident that the amendments to the Firearms Act that make provision for life imprisonment for repeat gun offenders, would serve as a deterrent.
He was responding to questions during a post-Cabinet press conference at Ilaro Court on Friday, which came on the heels of five reported shooting incidents since the start of the year, two of which were fatal.
The first shooting death for 2023 was at Crab Hill, St Lucy during the first week of the month, and the second – which occurred on Wednesday – was at Coral Drive, Atlantic Shores, Christ Church where Dwayne O’brien Hall was discovered dead. Last year, the island recorded some 44 murders, 33 of which were gun-related.
Marshall insisted that the success of the work by the armed forces should not be measured based on a few incidents so far this year, and residents should not expect things to change overnight.
“I don’t know where it is possible to maintain a state of perfection at all times,” said Marshall.
“Let’s be frank, unless we are going to impose a police state, and even in a police state you will find that there will be breaches of the law . . . let’s not be unrealistic. Things happen in our entire history. We have always had situations where there were lulls, there were peaks, some things happen but that does not mean the plan is not working,” insisted Marshall.
“I am satisfied with the extraordinary effort that is being put in by the members of the police service and jointly with the Barbados Defence Force. It is taking a lot of their effort, it is taking a lot of their personal sacrifice . . . I am not at all daunted by the fact that there have been unfortunate incidents, but I am not treating those incidents themselves as being a new spike and I am definitely not treating them as indicating a failure of our approach. Not at all,” he said.
At the beginning of December last year Commissioner of Police Richard Boyce announced that 86 members of the Barbados Police Service along with a varying number of soldiers from the BDF reserve, would make up Operation Restore Order.
The operation, which will initially run for three months, is to include among its tactics, law enforcement officials targeting specific areas, with the aim of restoring a “high level of calmness, peace of mind and well-being”.
However, with the recent shootings, two of which occurred 24 hours apart, some residents have admitted to being concerned and feeling unsafe.
Pointing out that Barbadians are still able to move about freely, Marshall gave the assurance there was no need for worry.
He said Barbados did not exist in “a Harry Potter world” and called for a little more patience before the amendments to the Firearms Act start serving as a deterrent to would-be gunmen and repeat gun offenders.
“I hope the members of the Barbadian public did not have an anticipation that because we passed a law in November that the day after it will cause gun crime to evaporate and disappear,” said Marshall.
“To expect that the passing of a law will immediately eliminate gun crimes is fanciful . . . but the important thing is that we are putting a structure in place that, when applied to the appropriate incident, should see the courts being able to send a message to individuals who are involved in crime,” he stressed.
Using the analogy of taking medication to improve one’s health, Marshall said “If I take medication today, it will take some time before the medication [works].”
“There is no law, the impact of which will be felt from the day after it passes through Parliament. That is a Harry Potter world. We passed a law to strengthen the arm of the judiciary. When appropriate cases get before the judiciary they will do what they have to do,” said Marshall. [email protected]