Business Community Rattled By Violent Armed Robberies LK Hewlett The shooting of a shop proprietor in Old Road on the weekend has increased the growing fear of armed robberies across the business community. Police are probing the latest armed robbery where on Sunday night ( Aug 9 ) superette owner, Frederick “Gabby” James of Half Way Tree, was shot during the commission of an armed robbery at his establishment Police confirmed that around 11 o’clock that night as the owner, in the company of a patron, was closing up his business place located on the island main road in Old Road, he was approached two masked assailants who demanded money. Only one was reportedly armed. Gabby was robbed of his cash earnings, and the patron, Dr. Charles Warner of Old Road, had his wallet taken as well. Despite handing over the cash, Gabby was shot in the leg and hospitalized. He has since been released. This armed robbery turned violent is the latest in string of such crimes being perpetrated against the business community. Another businessman, Ernest “Grey Patch” Hendricks, was in his bakery in the early hours on June 24 when a robber demanding money shot him. He died at the JNF hospital on July 7 . Recently there have been reports of armed robberies of a bread delivery van in Conyers and Domino’s Pizza personnel making a night deposit drop in downtown Basseterre. Rams and Food Centre have also been recently hit by armed robbers. A Banker and a shop owner in Nevis were gunned down in reported robberies in recent months. The Observer spoke with several small business owners who openly expressed fear that they could fall victim to robbers at any time. The proprietor of a food establishment near the Frigate Bay Strip said even though he has a security guard at the business, he is still always nervous, whether during the day or nighttime. He said he fears that robbers could target him when he arrives home from work at night, putting his family at risk as well. “I have a licensed firearm that I keep at the ready when I’m going home. I take precautionary measures like checking if I’m being followed when driving home, pulling up outside slouched in my seat in case they shoot through the van window. Right now, nothing feels like enough, us business people are just living in fear because they aren’t just taking your money anymore, they seem out for blood,” he related. “I’m not just concerned for my safety, I’m even more concerned for my family and staff.” A shop owner in a rural village said she could not afford security cameras or security guards for her little business. She was relying on the Lord to protect her and her children, she said. “Dem big boys could hire security and put up camera and so but we de small man could only have a machete and pray to God they nuh shoot us down,” she said. While she considers herself as having lived a relatively full life, she is concerned that robbers could attack when her children and grandchildren are helping behind the counter. A delivery bus driver for a wholesale company said it is nerve racking making deliveries, especially when he has to go out of Basseterre. He said he hopes that if he is ever the victim of an armed robbery, giving up the money will be enough to ensure his survival. “I will say see it here, I giving up everything. [Name of company removed] can make back their money, when I put up resistance and they kill me, all [company name removed] gone do is send my children a wreath,” he said. A local attorney opines that the latest string of robberies has an unusual vicious element that St. Kitts-Nevis is not accustomed to seeing, leading him to believe they are not being carried out by local criminals. “The viciousness of these acts is telling me these are foreigners or military trained; these are not the normal gang thing. These robberies are simply at a different level of brutality,” he told The Observer. He further stated that granting firearm licenses to more shop owners could help stem the problem. “This breed of criminals is not shooting each other, they are going after business people, so how come shop owners don’t have firearms? Why aren’t people handling cash not given licenses,” he put forward. The attorney opined that criminals are going to take over “because they don’t have any fear that their targets have guns”. “The business community is being targeted and almost executed. The robbers are going in with impunity, they aren’t afraid. They look at this thing like it’s easy pickings, so why would they stop? By the time the robbery is reported to the police, they are long gone from the scene.” The Chamber of Industry and Commerce in April expressed “extreme concern” with the rash of violent crimes, including armed robberies. The body called on the government to address the problem in “a powerful and effective way” and was of the view that “urgent and powerful action is required by law enforcement immediately to restore the safety and confidence of the citizens in our Federation”.