THE past weekend was a busy one for the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (RSLPF) as the recent upsurge in violent crimes continued.
Thirty-one-year-old Cul De Sac, Castries resident Micha Joseph became the island’s fifth recorded homicide on Saturday after he received an apparent gunshot wound to the back of his head. Police say the deceased was found lying on his side near the Castries Fish Market.
The violent trend continued on the weekend just before midnight on Saturday when a police officer was injured in an attempted robbery.
According to police, Glen Charlery of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) was approached by two masked individuals near Caribbean Cinemas at Choc, Castries around 11:50 p.m.
The assailants – one armed with a firearm, the other a knife – demanded money from Charlery, who was at the time providing cash escort service in the area.
During a scuffle that followed, Charlery sustained stab wounds to the back of his head, the left side of his face and his forehead. He was taken to Victoria Hospital where he was treated and discharged.
Police could not confirm whether any arrests have been made in relation to Saturday’s homicide and attempted robbery.
The west coast town of Soufriere also proved eventful for law enforcement over the weekend. Around 5:30 a.m. last Sunday, Soufriere Police executed search warrants at various locations in the area as part of an operation.
During that operation, three Soufriere men were arrested and charged for a number of offences. DarchelyVictorine, 21, of Soufriere and LeshellCharlery, 21, of Fond Benier, Soufriere were arrested and charged for being in possession of a 12-guage shotgun. Charlery was also charged for being in possession of two live rounds of 12-guage ammunition.
The third man, Elias “Shaka B” Nicholas, 26, of Market Road, Soufriere was arrested and charged for being in possession of a small quantity of cannabis worth $50 and cocaine worth $50.
The trio was expected to make a court appearance yesterday at the Second District Court in Soufriere.
Over the past few weeks, police have been struggling to come to grips with an upsurge in crime that was preceded by relative calm, especially as it relates to homicides. Between April 4 and 11, five men have been shot and killed, all of them sustaining gunshot wounds to the head.
Acting Police Press Officer, Acting Corporal Zachary Hippolyte, told The VOICE yesterday that the police force’s limited human resource capacity is being tested as their calls for reinforcement are being ignored.
Hippolyte said the officers attached to the Major Crimes Unit (MCU) and Criminal Investigations Department (CID) are inundated with reports to which they need to respond. On many occasions, he said, the same police officers already working on several cases are called on to investigate new cases. The number of cases those police officers have to deal with, he said, far outnumber the MCU and CID’s capacity.
“It’s tasking but they do it,” Hippolyte said. “They work around-the-clock. But it’s a lot on the human resource of the police force.”
Hippolyte said that just about 15%-20% of the police force’s 1200-plus staff base “is actually involved in investigation.” He said whatever initiatives or programmes the police force needs to adopt in order to effectively combat crime must focus primarily on adding more police officers to the equation. Recently, President of the Police Welfare Association (PWA), Camron Laure, told The VOICE that an average of 26 police officers leave the police force annually. Hippolyte said the situation is a serious one that deserves attention.
“The issue of attrition in the force is not new,” Hippolyte said. “You can never have enough police officers. And that’s the reality of it.”
While the police came in for much praise from the public with the island not recording any homicide for the first three months of the year, the month of April has been bloody thus far. With no one charged as yet for the five homicides recorded this year, many are calling on the police to do what the police force says is near impossible.
“Despite our limited resources, we still have to ensure that our main objective which is maintaining law and order in Saint Lucia is met,” Hippolyte said.