Is ‘Operation Restore Confidence’ impacting local crime?

Operation Restore Confidence started with raids on St Lucia's crime hotspots but has it developed into more?

St Lucia was very close to declaring a state of emergency in February of this year after 13 people were killed in just two months. There were loud cries for the police to take action and for the government to do something about crime. St Lucians were living in fear.
National Security Minister Guy Mayers says St Lucia’s situation at that time had similarities to what is currently going on in Trinidad with rising crime, especially murders although Trinidad’s is more serious.
The Trinidad government instituted a limited state of emergency weeks ago with a curfew from 9pm to 5am. This week the curfew times were relaxed to the hours of 11pm to 4am but the limited state of emergency was extended for three months. Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar was forced, despite heavy criticism, to declare a war on crime and since the curfew over 1000 people have been arrested. Persad-Bissessar’s justification at the time of the decision was that “there comes a time in the history of a nation when we have to take very strong action; very decisive action.”
For Saint Lucia’s part Mayers was quoted in the Trinidad Express as saying that the government considered the effect a curfew would have on the island’s tourism-driven economy.
“We operate as a region, so we are looking on with interest at what is happening in Trinidad and Tobago,” Mayers, who is also the head the Regional Security System said. “And, yes, at the height of the problems we were having here earlier this year, a state of emergency in the hot spots was certainly one of the options that were considered. When you are going through that kind of difficulty, you have to weigh all of your options, but we did not think we had reached a point where we needed to implement such a measure in St Lucia.”
Saint Lucia did however launch ‘Operation Restore Confidence’ that saw local police making their way into known crime hotspots, conducting searches and arresting offenders.
But as the hard hand of the police and army is criticized in Trinidad, the Royal St Lucia Police Force’s Operation Restore Confidence has also been questioned. So far for the year local police have killed 11 persons, with no word yet on whether Inquests will held to investigate the deaths. The island has already recorded 27 murders but no one can deny that the police force has become more visible and there has been an increase in the solving of crimes.
Case in point this week the police arrested and charged two young men in the shooting death of a young woman from Babonneau who was killed in Wilton’s Yard. The key to the case, the STAR was told, were tips from persons in the community. The young woman, 24-year-old Lisa Isidore was shot on August 26 by masked men while she was in Wilton’s Yard. The two young men charged for her murder were only 20 and 22 years old.
Family members of the young woman heaped praise on the people who helped to solve the case by giving the police tips.
This is a far cry from the St Lucia months ago when the police were begging St Lucians for help and some other citizens were even advising St Lucians not to help the police suggesting that the police could not protect informants.
The police have also been beefing up their community policing initiatives with help from overseas sources. And the STAR has been assured the police is putting even more resources into better community relations.
“We have seen a marked increase in people trying to help the police.  The latest murder we solved was because of help from people,” said Press Relations Officer Trevor Constantine.
“Operation Restore Confidence sent a strong sign to people that we were serious about crime. There has been a decrease in the level of crime taking place in the country. You see police constantly patrolling the hotspots and people see that and that makes them feel differently about the police. We execute more search warrants and recover stolen goods and people come to us to recover their items. So Operation Restore Confidence has really allowed us to get the public to engage us again. There is a level of confidence now.”
Constantine also spoke to the effective use of community policing.
“We have really been trying to meet with the public on a one on one basis and we educate them about how as a community they can better protect their property. We don’t want normal law abiding citizens to see the police as an enemy.  We are working together.”
The PRO added that police officers themselves feel better about the work they do.
“There is more of a positive attitude from officers, a pride with the job,” admitted Constantine. “The change in the relationship between the public and the police is especially seen when we approach people for information they are more forthcoming. This is what we are looking for, a partnership. It helps all of us achieve our goals. When police officers go out into a community and they are received well they also feel good about their jobs.”
Constantine added that Operation Restore Confidence “will not stop” because “there are so many trouble spots in St Lucia that we need to keep tackling. And we just hope the public sees our efforts and continue to help.”
Acting Police Commissioner Vernon Francois has often spoken about the role of the public in helping to solve crimes and has also called on St Lucians in the past not to let criminals take over.

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