Top Cop: crime strategy a success

Acting Police Commissioner Vernon Francois.

There has been much debate as to the effectiveness of Operation Restore Confidence. Since the crime-fighting strategy was launched on January 10 this year, Acting Commissioner of Police Vernon Francois has constantly spoken of the strides being made in combating crime. However, on Friday June 24, Francois gave the tangible facts to back up his opinion.
Corporal Wayne Charlery of the Central Intelligence Unit of the police force presented the media with statistics collected from January to May 2011 and compared it to the same time period of previous years.
Charlery took it a step further by analyzing the current crime phenomena permeating St Lucian society.  Charlery explained that although there has been a decrease in several categories of serious crime, the situation is still bleak as more of the nation’s youth are pulled into the criminal underworld. One of the main features that have contributed significantly to young people going astray is the “erosion of the family unit as the main building block of our society,” Charlery said.  As such, these unattached youth are searching for a nurturing environment, somewhere to call home.  This vulnerability makes them easy prey to gangs and gang lifestyles.”
The island’s drug trade is also a major concern for the police force because of the cycle of dependency and illegality it perpetuates.
Charlery defined serious crimes as murder, robbery, stolen motor vehicles, burglary, fraud, extortion, money laundering, narcotics and firearm offenses and noted that these offenses are concentrated in the Castries basin and that has been the case for a number of years.
According to Charlery, there has been a 33.33 percent decrease in firearm offenses this year from January to May compared to the same period last year.   Likewise, incidents of stolen vehicles decreased by 22.22 percent, narcotics by 7.14 percent, stealing from persons by 5.26 percent, robbery by 33.52 percent and burglary by 16.59 percent.
The homicide rate has increased by 52.63 percent this year.  Police killings also went up by 266.66 percent.  March 2011 was a milestone for the police because there were no homicides recorded for that month, something that has not been achieved in over a decade.
When questioned, Francois admitted the statistics were based on reported crime and may not be a true reflection of the country’s situation.  And though the police have been able to formulate operational strategies to combat serious crimes, they are still at a loss when it comes to incidents of domestic violence.
Said Charlery: “Our major concern in this crime web is domestic violence. Domestic violence remains the dominant causative factor in the commission of murders for the last five years. Law enforcement is handicapped in providing effective intervention to domestic situations where the occurrence of violent crime is likely. Basically our mechanisms and instruments that may prove effective in oppressing general crime have little impact in managing domestic issues and situations where the likelihood of violent crime is high.”
Francois spoke to addressing the rising number of domestic violence cases on island.  He identified the biggest challenge as changing the mind set of police officers.          “We see our role as police officers to ensure that we educate our colleagues on the value of dealing with domestic violence cases,” he said. “Usually, police officers tend to think that this is just some people’s personal business so they don’t want to get involved in it. We’re looking at getting some training for them so that they can appreciate the significance of every single crime, whether it’s domestic violence or what we consider petty crimes.  There are a number of other initiatives that can be taken but that would involve the public as well as government departments playing a role.  People have to look at ways and means of resolving conflict such as anger management.  These are the problems that result in domestic violence.  From a law enforcement perspective, we have to discourage people from using violence to resolve issues they are confronted with.”

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