Police And The Community Editorial For years the Talk shows have been talking, and the newspapers have been printing, opinions and appeals and expressions of dismay about the crime situation in our Federation. No effective action has been taken and week by week further murders or armed robberies are reported. One hopes each time that the latest murder will be the last, but it never is. For too long political parties have said that their opponents have no policy to deal with crime, or have mishandled it. We have, I suggest, reached such a critical position that only the most radical steps have a chance to avoid a continuing increase and its consequences, both economic and for personal safety. In an article following the re-opening of Four Seasons after the last closure I set out part of some 19 th Century UK Police Standing Orders thus: ‘The primary object of an efficient police is prevention of crime, the next that of detection and punishment of offenders if crime is committed. To those ends all the efforts of police must be directed. The protection of life and property, the preservation of public tranquility, and the absence of crime will alone prove whether those efforts have been successful. In attaining these objects, much depends on the approval and cooperation of the public, and these have always been determined by the degree of the esteem and respect in which the police are held’. In a letter written in 1991 [24 years ago!] by me for the Nevis Hotel Association and sent privately to the then Premier, we said: ‘The key to crime prevention and crime solution is a free flow of information from the public to the police. We are a small close community, where it is difficult to do anything without someone else knowing about it, theoretically an ideal community for good policing. However before this will work in practice, (1) the public must realize that their own livelihood is put in jeopardy by criminal activity, and that it is in their interests to supply information to the police if they have it and, (2) the public must trust the police. This trust has to be earned every day, by competence, and fair and reasonable treatment of suspects, within the Law at all times. If the perception is one of ‘them and us’ little information will be given. If individual policemen and women are well know, respected, approachable, and perhaps liked, it will not be easy for the criminal to hide knowledge of his crimes. The job done by the leaders of our police force is more important than anything we do or any politician can do for the preservation of our society at this crucial time. These leaders, if able men and well supported, can guarantee, or if incompetent or corrupt, destroy, our existing peaceful law abiding way of life, and with it our prosperity. They must be backed by us, by the politicians and by the community. Support of the police by the community begins in the home and the schools’. There are a number of areas where, I think, we go wrong. Because we depend on tourism, our politicians and our police minimize the gravity of the situation. An example of this is a Police PR release of June 18 th 2015, made in response to a report on BBC Newsday by Nick Davis apparently describing our Federation as one of the most dangerous places on the planet, a small nation with one of the highest murder rates per capita in the world. The Police communiqué reads: ‘The BBC Newsday reporter conjured up a negative image of a nation where residents and visitors need to be overly concerned about their safety. The impression one would get from listening to this unfortunate piece of journalism is that our twin-island Federation, that many residents and visitors call ‘two islands one paradise’ and which many investors and reputable business journalists refer to as ‘the sweet spot of the Caribbean’, has rampant crime. The facts are that major crimes are falling in our country, The RSCNPF has informed that the Federation receives over one million visitors annually and the incidence of crime against visitors is extremely rare. To substantiate the fact that major crimes are on a downward trend, the Public Relations Department of the RSCNPF has provided comparative statistics of major crimes recorded for the five-month period January 1 to May 31 in the years 2013, 2014 and 2015. In 2013 there were 794 major crimes while 511 were recorded in 2014, 342 in 2015. The RSCNPF explained that major crimes are homicide, break-in, larceny, robbery, wounding, malicious damage/arson, and drugs and firearm-related offences. ‘The facts reveal that over the 3-year period 2013 to 2015, major crimes are down almost 60%. We have the full support in the fight against crime from the new administration that took office just over 4 months ago. The Police High Command has put in place a crime fighting plan that enhances our community outreach activities in an effort to root out the criminal elements amongst us’. It also states that the safety and security of residents and visitors are matters accorded top priority. El Salvador is described as the murder capital of the world at 92 per 100,000 persons estimated to be murdered in 2015. This is 20 times deadlier than USA and 90 times the UK. Jamaica clocks in at 40.6 per 100000. So what about us? Is Mr. Davis right or is he scandal mongering? He may have used data from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime which showed the then most up to date homicide rates per 100,000 people for the most populous cities of 137 countries. Basseterre was the No. 1 city. Seventeen murders for 2011 apparently gave a rate of 131.6 per 100,000. The total population of St. Kitts Nevis is given as 54,800, so for the recent year in which there were 34 murders, the rate per 100,000 is 62. The World Bank gives the 2011 rate for our Federation as 64, and as 34 for 2012. The worst countries El Salvador and Honduras where they have serious gang violence rate between 70 and 90. It does no-one any service to put out minimizing reports, by which the police persuade themselves that they are doing a good job and some of the community that all is well. Nothing is well. The funeral of a murdered local man took place in Nevis on August 23rd . August 25th saw the Federation’s 20 th murder for 2015, and in the early hours of the same day an American couple with a house at Hamilton were robbed and beaten up. They had been coming to Nevis for 25 years. They left on Sunday never to return. Others have been robbed at gunpoint more than once. There was an armed robbery and shooting at Prospect on the 27 th , and as I write murder number 21 is reported over in St. Kitts. This is a worried community. It is no way to live. Politicians should appreciate that at some stage we may if we have not already, reach a tipping point, when, not only do some lose their lives, but everyone loses their livelihood. In March of this year following two murders in St. Paul’s, the Prime Minister spoke to the Nation. He told us that his Government holds citizen safety and security as a top priority, and would at all times have a zero tolerance towards crime. He said that the prevailing ‘no snitching’ culture would be addressed. We do not know how this ‘zero tolerance’ translates into results. Perhaps they are just words of intended comfort. Unfortunately the only near zeros are the figures for successful prosecution of murderers and armed robbers, and information given by the public resulting in convictions. Our police force has failed and is failing us. This is not a personal opinion. It is a matter of record. We need a new Police Force, well educated, well trained, and enthusiastic at all times to carry out their mission: ‘With confidence and pride we will enforce the law without fear or favour, malice or ill will. We will prevent crimes, we will pursue and bring to justice those who break the law. We will endeavour to assist and reassure all residents and visitors, and we will to the best of our ability do all this with integrity and impartiality’. This article seeks to encourage clear thinking and decisive radical action, it implies no criticism of individual officers, but the reco
rd of the institution has to be proclaimed for what it is. It is plain that the areas requiring a sea change go to the heart of the failure. Rightly or wrongly the perception in the community is that if information is given to the police it may be given by them to the offender. No informant can feel safe, so little information is provided. The perception also is that some officers do not know what to do at a crime scene, and that interview skills are lacking. If we already had the Force we need these perceptions would not exist. Importantly , that Force would have kept us free of guns. Dr. Harris addressing crime recently, said that a modern Police Force was needed to curb murders, and that members of the Force had become lax and slack and had developed friendships that are affecting the enforcement of laws. At present criminals act with impunity, and frequency, and dominate thinking in our country. Our Prime Minister has said that law enforcement must be provided with specialized services, expertise and technology for crime fighting. Correct, but he will want to ensure that this is not a case of new wine into old bottles. Syndicated columnist