POLICE yesterday released the annual crime statistics report for last year, telling reporters that the Force was able to record successes in various areas. All major categories of crime – except for crimes against property and summary offences – recorded declines, police say.
According to the report, while 20,084 incidents of crime were reported (a 5.5% increase over 2013), there was a 3% increase in the detection rate over the previous year. Summary offences accounted for the lion’s share of the crimes reported — 9,727 (or 48%), crimes against property — 5,337 (or 27%), offence against the person — 4,151 (or 21%), sexual offences – 274 (or 1%), firearm offences – 131 (or 1%), drug offences – 188 (or 1%), and crimes against the administration of justice – 106 (or 1%).
The island’s homicide rate, which has virtually become the standard by which many judge the performance of law enforcement, declined – 34 homicides were recorded compared to 36 in 2013. Since recording a record 52 homicides in 2011, the rate has tapered off, with 44 in 2012. Twenty-nine murders, 3 police shootings and 2 unclassified cases accounted for last year’s homicides, police say, with 15 of those homicides recorded in Castries.
Less firearms offences were reported last year – 131, down from 161 in 2013. However, 40 firearms and 410 rounds of ammunition were recovered, compared to 27 firearms and 251 rounds of ammunition recovered the previous year.
Two fewer sexual offences were reported last year – 274 – with indecent assault (74 cases) and rape (44) being the lead offences in that category. Burglary (1,143 reported cases) and theft (1,060 cases) led the offences against property category.
While officials are yet to provide specific figures for cocaine seizures, they said there were less reported drug offences during the period under review – 188 cases, down from 254 cases in 2013. Most of those cases were related to unlawful possession of marijuana (124). Police say 122, 445 grown marijuana plants and 83, 866 seedlings were recovered and destroyed last year, compared to 106, 892 grown plants and 10, 957 seedlings recovered and destroyed the previous year.
Police Commissioner Vernon Francois described 2013 as “a very interesting year” for the Force, adding that the organization was able to reap the success of carefully-implemented strategies. He also expressed thanks for the support from the public, citing the need for the police to build on its community-oriented policing and intelligence-driven methods. While a crime-free society might be unattainable, Francois said all needs to be done to reduce the crime figures.
Francois also lauded the Force’s efforts at dealing with errant police officers during last year. He said “considerable work” was done in that regard and that “a great degree of success” was realized. Police say 72 matters against police officers were adjudicated last year, with 26 police officers fined as a result. Some of the matters raised last year, they say, should have some closure by this April.
Francois said that while his organization was able to capitalize on creative ways to fight crime, it continued to do so with inadequate resources. He said that despite its recent successes, the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (RSLPF) needs all the human and economic capital it can get in order to carry out its mandate even as government finds it challenging to increase such support.
“We definitely still need the resources (and) are still making a case for those resources,” Francois said. “But really what (the lack of resources) has done is that it has forced us to be more creative in what we do. That’s why we have been able to achieve what there is. We are basically running our officers to the ground. So we really need the resources that we are speaking to.”