Women Put On Alert.
THE Police Force yesterday reiterated a call for women island wide to be on high alert regarding their personal safety and protection following the gang rape of two teenaged girls Monday evening in an apartment at Reduit Orchard.
And Gender Relations Minister Alvina Reynolds is calling for nationwide discussions about arming women with devices like pepper spray and mace for their protection.
Acting Police Commissioner Errol Alexander, in an exclusive with this newspaper, made the call for women to take their safety and protection seriously, echoing similar calls made by various heads of the Police Force over the years.
“We are concerned because all of us have a stake in this. I have a wife, daughter, sister…., ” Alexander said.
The incident at Reduit Orchard simply accentuated the growing problem of sexual offences that has been on the rise in recent years.
Police not too long ago were able to nip in the bud a situation that was unfolding in the eastern corridor of the island where ruthless men were luring unsuspecting women into their vehicles on the pretense of giving them a ride to their homes from work. The men would sexually violate these women. Police say they have had a breakthrough in that case.
Then, just a few months back a senior police office issued a warning for women in the upper northern part of the island to be on the alert regarding their safety.
This has taken greater significance with last week’s release of crime statistics by police for the first three quarters of this year which showed that the northern sector of the island recorded the highest number of reported crimes, including sexual offences.
This has pushed Alexander to take an even more critical look at a sensitive unit in the police department called the Vulnerable Persons Team (VPT). This is a group of highly trained police officers which handle all reports of a sexual nature that come to the police department.
Officers from this group are also the investigators of such cases, taking the case from the time of the report and following the process through to its end, even having to transport victims to hospital, providing counselling and safety for them and everything else in between.
Two units make up the VPT. One is located in the north of the island the other is in the south.
“These units are properly trained. Their job is to investigate sexual offences. They do the whole investigation. From time to time we (police force) provide counselling to the members of VPT because of what they have to go through dealing with cases of a sexual nature,” Alexander said.
The latest statistics from police show that sexual offences increased from 188 (January to September 2014) to 194 for the same period this year. Police recorded that the detection rate for sexual offences decreased by 11 percent for this year.
Police further noted that sexual offences and crimes against persons were the only major crime categories which recorded an increased number of accepted cases.
“It’s an island wide problem,” Alexander said, referring to crimes of a sexual nature, adding that Vieux Fort has its own problems. He further noted that the sexual problems in the country could be worse than what they are now because there are women who do not report such a crime when it is committed against them.
“It hurts me to know that there are men who are preying on women,” Alexander said.
Vieux Fort not withstanding lawmen are focusing their attention on the Mabouya valley which is said is rampant with sexual incidents.
Details regarding the special attention being paid to the Mabouya Valley are not being released at this time, however a special component has been included in the police crime strategy that will serve to further confront offences of a sexual nature, noted Alexander.
Meanwhile Health Minister Reynolds is preparing to battle with men over what she says is the disturbing increase in the number of reported rape cases on the island.
“I want to send a strong message out to the men of this country that enough is enough. There must be respect for women. There must be that sense of wanting to protect women. We are equal partners in this country and one group cannot be seen as being disrespected and violated again and again,” Reynolds said.
The two teenager girls were allegedly violated by three men with t-shirts around their faces. One of the men was said to be in possession of a firearm. The men gained entry into the apartment via a closed but unlocked door. The girls were also robbed of a few items. One of the girls was taken to hospital because of injuries suffered as a result of the violation.
Police have reported no arrest to date.
Reynolds wants the discussions about arming women to begin now.
“This is the time. We have done lots of sessions to sensitize men on their role in terms of working along with women and respecting women but that seems to fall on some deaf ears. Something else has to happen at this point in time. So amidst the talking, there must be action and this is what I am laying on the table today. It is time that we look at, and as a Cabinet we will begin to have that discussion, for pepper spray and mace and for women to begin to arm themselves with something,” Reynolds said.