With the crime stats showing that there has been a reduction in the number of major crimes reported in 2014 and now news of a homicide-free January, the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force is certainly having a moment in the spotlight. Still, it may be a moment of feigned glory – what with a report from an investigation into the RSLPF now said to be in the hands of the government. The investigation stemmed from a number of police killings effected in 2011 under what was known as “operation restore confidence.”
With his usual calm demeanour, on Monday February 2, 2015 police commissioner Vernon Francois informed reporters that the island had registered zero homicides for January. However, he was quick to credit “the victory” to the citizenry. “Obviously we are very happy to register zero homicides last month,” he said. “This is a small victory for the entire island. So I really would like to thank the public for working with us as we move towards a greater reduction in crime in 2015,” Francois emphasized.
At a press conference on January 21, 2015, Francois had also applauded Saint Lucians for working with the police in 2014, a year that had shown an increase in the police detection rate.
After thanking the public for its cooperation, the commissioner explained that since 2010 when 44 homicides had been recorded, there had been a downward trend in the numbers. “We have to keep reducing this and although we will never have a crime-free society, which is the ultimate, I think that as a people we can work towards reducing murders in Saint Lucia,” Francois said.Before delving into the actual crime stats, the commissioner touched on dealing with errant police officers within the force.
ACP Alexander then gave further details on how the RSLPF had dealt with aberrant officers. “Seventy-two matters were adjudicated for the year 2014 and twenty-six officers were fined,” Alexander stated. He went on to explain that the process for adjudication was similar to what is done by a magistrates court but that it was an internal court process within the RSLPF. “We are hoping to have more success this year as some of the matters up for hearing last year could be brought to an end by April,” he said.
The press conference then went into the actual crime statistics: during the period 2014 there were 20,084 incidents of crime reported, a 5.5% increase over 2013. There was also an increase in overall detection rate of crime reported by 3%. There were also reductions in all major categories of crime with the exception of crime against property and summary offenses.
The police then went on to highlight that in 2014 there were 34 homicides recorded as compared to 36 in 2013. The victims ranged in age from 31-40 years. Among the number last year were two mentally unstable men who were shot and killed by police.
A closer examination of the homicides in 2014 reveals that 62% of them were committed in and around the city, 17% in the north of the island and 21% in the southern part of Saint Lucia. Most of them had been caused by firearms, which also saw an increase in recovery of such by the police in 2014.
In the area of crimes against persons there were 4,151 cases reported last year with a 53% detection rate.
Sexual assault crimes reflected 270 cases accepted and 170 detected. Of that number there were 44 incidents of rape, seven attempted rape cases and 24 cases of unlawful sexual connection (in 2013 there were 12). There were 74 cases of indecent assault (ten less than 2013), seven indecent acts and 21 gross indecency acts. The police also attended to eight cases of buggery and five cases of incest in 2014.
There was a sharp increase in offenses against property in 2014 – 5,337 cases up from 4,703.
The RSLPF also recorded a number of successful drug interdiction and eradication exercises in 2014. The majority of those, 166, were for the unlawful possession of cannabis. There were also 11 matters involving cocaine.
During the said press conference police commissioner Vernon Francois said that while the loss of assistance by the United States to the RSLPF may have affected the police, they had doubled their efforts in fighting crime in 2014. “Obviously any assistance for proper training for the police is welcomed, but I do believe that the stepping up of our community policing and working with the general public has brought results,” he said. However, the investigations into the police, which later resulted in the withdrawal of assistance by the United States, was a matter that the commissioner could not avoid. According to Francois, this was a chapter he wanted to see be brought to closure. When asked whether a copy of the IMPACS report would be made available to him, the commissioner responded: “That’s a question that I think is best suited for the prime minister to answer”.