WITH crime being one of the major factors making the headlines this year, much more is being expected of the police than is currently being done to reassure citizens that things can change for the better next year as far as their safety is concerned.
Homicides, burglaries, rapes and drug offences are just some of the issues law enforcement have seemingly failed to keep under control, prompting many to suggest that a real paradigm shift needs to be implemented rather than just being promised.
Minister for Home Affairs, Justice and National Security, Hermangild Francis, spoke to the media on Thursday morning, explaining that while the crime situation is a major concern for authorities, some positive steps are being made to remedy the situation, including putting as many boots on the ground to curb crime, especially in the city.
“It is a worrying situation but the police are on the ground,” Francis said. “We have a few more officers from the City Council and you would have noticed the successful apprehension of two would-be robbers recently. At least we’re trying our very best to make sure that the city is safe during the Christmas season.”
Francis’ comments came just two hours after twentysomething-year-old Junior Scotland was shot and killed along a narrow track in the Conway area in downtown Castries. Francis said the continued trend of using violence as a way of solving problems was counter-productive and senseless.
“It doesn’t really matter who is killed; it’s just the loss of another Saint Lucian life, which is unacceptable. But I will be speaking with the (Police) Commissioner to see how far they can get with the investigation in this matter. But it’s really not a good thing for our island,” Francis explained.
On the matter of cracking down on the use of illegal firearms by offenders, the Minister said the police are employing every possible means at their disposal to stem the flow and use of these weapons, which often feature prominently in violent crimes.
Francis, a former Deputy Commissioner of Police, cited an incident just this week when police reportedly apprehended an individual from whom they recovered a 9-millimetre firearm with about 200 or 300 rounds of ammunition. That individual, Francis said, had between 300,000 or 400,000 Euros in his possession. He said the court needs to be less lenient on people found in possession of illegal firearms.
“We understand the dilemma and the police are working extremely hard to make sure that we deal with this matter,” said Francis. “What I must say, too, is that when these guys are brought before the court – especially for bail – that the magistrates must look at the severity of the matter of the gun and make sure that we send a message out there.”
Francis also stressed the need for law enforcement to come up with more modern methods of curbing crime by keeping a closer watch on criminals, especially recidivists, who often choose crime as a way of life.
“When we do look at these matters and investigate them, (we notice that) it’s just the repeat offenders (involved). It’s glaring and we need to find a way of keeping these persons incarcerated or monitor them so that they do not do these sort of crimes as openly and brazenly as they do,” Francis explained.