Growing public-police partnership increases safety in St. Kitts-Nevis
By Valencia Grant, press secretary to the prime minister of St. Kitts and Nevis
Basseterre, St. Kitts – Prime Minister the Honourable Dr. Timothy Harris said last week there are signs of progress all over the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis and mentioned “the reduction in homicides over the last five months” as just one example.
To date, 20 homicides have been committed in 2017. Last year, there were 31 homicides. The record for homicides in a single year in the federation occurred in 2011, when 35 homicides were committed in St. Kitts and Nevis.
The last four homicides this year occurred July 4, Aug. 21, Oct. 7 and Oct. 9. Today, Nov. 13, marks a five-week lull.
Speaking with the press unit in the Office of the Prime Minister last week, Deputy Commissioner of Police Hilroy Brandy said intelligence-led policing is driving results. “Last night, based on our intelligence, we were able to prevent what could have resulted in at least two homicides,” he said.
At a police high command press conference Aug. 24, Queeley said “we have continued to embrace the various elements of the “Police Six-Point Plan for the Reduction of Homicides and Violent Crimes 2015,” such as intelligence-led policing and collaboration with other agencies, both internal and external.”
Revealing the statistics recorded up to Aug. 22 and comparing them with statistics from the same period in 2016, the commissioner said at the press conference that the number of homicides had declined from 23 to 18, or by 22 percent, and the homicide detection rate had more than doubled, increasing from 17 percent to 38.9 percent. The amount of illegal firearms seized this year as compared with last year has also increased: 36 were seized in 2016 and 42 have been removed from communities to date this year.
Some illegal firearms are seized during the execution of search warrants. Search warrants are issued due to probable cause, based on evidence gathered during the course of investigations, such as information provided by community members. Sometimes concerned citizens present illegal firearms to the police, as was the case early last month when the 39th for the year was seized.
“When we find illegal firearms, we do the ballistics immediately [to link the guns to violent crimes] and we are seeing some important results coming out of that,” said Andre Mitchell, assistant commissioner of police with responsibility for the crime directorate, on May 15. “The information that we get from the general public – and have gotten over the last couple of weeks – really undergirds our very efforts and what we are seeing, in terms of our targeted police operations and our intelligence-led policing. Behind the scenes, people have been cooperating, giving us information and really expressing a level of confidence in the police, which have led us to be able to find these number of firearms.”
Indeed, the hiding places for criminals and contraband seem to be dwindling as the public takes a more proactive, collaborative approach to deal with crime in their neighbourhoods. Prime Minister Harris has said he staunchly supports and encourages this kind of approach, along with harsher penalties for offenders.
For instance, while wrapping up the debate on the Firearms Amendment Bill 2017 that passed into law in June, Harris had said “the bill – by increasing the penalty [for the illegal possession and use of firearms] by 50 percent from 10 to 15 years – is an indication to all who would hear and listen that they must find no hiding place: no hiding place in the homes of a parent or family member; no hiding place in our schools nor in our churches; no hiding place in our political parties; no hiding place anywhere.
“Law and order must again be the mantra,” Harris said. “Yes, I accept that there is a clarion call by all law-abiding citizens for stiffer penalties to be exacted on the culprits, and we are doing so today and we will do more. This bill then is about the future. It will not bring back the loved ones lost, but it will certainly discourage others who know that the consequences, when caught, will be severely harsh.”