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Thursday, April 06, 2006 

Mixed results in region’s fight against crime

Thursday, April 6, 2006

by Shervon Alfred
Caribbean Net News St Lucia Correspondent
Email: shervon@caribbeannetnews.com

CASTRIES, St Lucia: The carnage continues in some Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries, with first-quarter homicide reports that vary from unchanged numbers to new record highs.But while the nature of killings takes on more sadistic tones in some territories, there is evidence in some others that investing in public confidence is paying off.

In St Lucia, the homicide rate remained the same in 2005 as it was in 2004, with 37 murders reported each year.This year, the first quarter figure stands at nine homicides between January 1 and March 31 -- a figure hardly different from that of the same period last year.

In several other Caricom member-states, the homicide ratio has been basically the same. But in some other territories, the nature and size of serious crime and homicides continues to escalate.

The changes in pattern were seen last month across the region in the murder of the Press Secretary to the Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, the killing of a member of St Lucia’s gay community and the murder of a six-year-old in Trinidad & Tobago by two young men.

In Jamaica, the number of homicides and the effects of gang and drug-related violence continue to alarm the public and the Government, with the new Portia Simpson-Miller administration putting crime-fighting at the top of its list of priorities. The new Jamaican Prime Minister has also called on the nation’s religious leaders to bring the country together in prayer against crime.

But the carnage continues in Trinidad & Tobago, where the recent kidnap, rape and murder of a child by two young men has also resulted in religious leaders calling for the nation to pray and repent.

The homicide rate in Caricom’s richest country has escalated to previously unimagined proportions, with a major local newspaper describing the comparative figures for the first quarter of 2006 as “the highest for the century.”In its March 30, 2006 issue, the Trinidad Guardian reported comparative first-quarter statistics on the island’s homicide rate over the past six years. The report indicated the number of killings in the twin-island republic moved up from 17 at the turn of the century in 2000 to 58 in 2003 and climbing steeply to 106 in 2006.Crime watchers in Port of Spain note that the figures increased by 300% in 2003 over what it was three years earlier and there was a 200% increase in 2006 over 2003.

But there is evidence in St Lucia that investing in the fight against crime can pay dividends if the correct avenues are found. While the homicide rate remained stable in the first quarter of the year, the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force is also reporting continuing progress in the recovery of illegal weapons.

A Government-funded programme initiated by Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony that rewards informants in the sum of EC$2,500 for information leading to the successful recovery of illegal firearms, has so far netted 38 illegal weapons between January 1 and March 31, 2006.

Encouraged by the success of that programme, the police last week announced a new reward programme offering $8,000 for information leading to the solution of each of 34 unsolved murders.The Police Commissioner said at a press conference announcing the new initiative that it was being undertaken in light of increasing evidence of renewed and growing public confidence in the police.

Commissioner Ausbert Regis said a reason for the success of the reward programme for illegal guns has to do with the fact that in no case has the identity of any informant been compromised.

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