By John Denny
(Charlestown, Nevis) – “More police presence” was a common answer given by many local business owners and managers when asked what could curtail the scourge of thieves that seem to bloom after dark on the island.
The owner of a downtown Charlestown bar (who asked his name not be printed) is in one of the allegedly most secure places on the island with around-the-clock video surveillance, and even he has had an attempted break-in after hours.
“It’s my understanding that the cameras are not working,” he said.
But the cameras are not so much his concern as is the lack of professionalism in the police.
“When someone makes a report, the police should at least act concerned,” he said. “A few nights ago we had a guy acting up, causing trouble and bothering the customers. I called the police and asked them to come here. I waited a while and called them again and asked them to do something before I take the law into my own hands. No one ever showed up. The police station is right around the corner. I would think that one of them could walk over here and do their job, but the police don’t care. Nevis wasn’t always like this. A few years ago we never had to worry about crime like this. If this continues, people will start taking the law into their own hands.”
Mackie Tross owns A1 Office Technologies, located about two blocks from the Charlestown Police station. His business was burglarized and about $20,000 worth of cell phones were taken last week. According to Mr. Tross, a witness called the police three times to report the crime in progress. The burglar had time to make a second trip back to the store and get away before constables showed up about 45 minutes later.
“This is the third time in less than three years that this has happened,” said Mr. Tross. “We need more police presence. Not in their cars, but on foot and walking a beat. If we had police walking through here late at night, when these crimes are committed, maybe they would not happen. If they would come a little more quickly when they are called, maybe they would catch some of them. Those that say we are not overrun with crime don’t live where I live. The crime around here is more than our police can handle.”
Florence Williams is the manager at Island Hopper and she agrees that a more visible police presence would certainly deter criminal activity.
“The Premier says the police are understaffed and I believe it. I hardly ever see any police around,” Ms. Williams said. “It seems as though when I am asleep, the police are asleep too. The offenders realize that after a certain time, there are no police around and that is when they do what they want.”
Ms. Williams is a native Nevisian, but lived many years in Leeds, England.
“Leeds is known for being high crime, but we are talking about a population of tens upon tens of thousands of people,” she said. “When you consider how small Nevis is, the crime rate is high. All this has happened in just the past few years. Nevis used to be about Christianity and being you neighbor’s keeper, but our society has become one of greed. People are living beyond their means. They see new fashions or new merchandise and they either take it or they are working two or three jobs to get it and when they are working all the time the children are being left without supervision. Nevis used to be about working until 4 or 5 and then going home to spend time with the family, but with everyone working so much so they can buy more and more … the lack of parental guidance is allowing children to do bad things.”