It’s a safe bet that if you live in a relatively small but crime-ridden society sooner or later the big bad wolf behind a balaclava mask will appear on your doorstep, teeth bared. For the most part, what I know about crime in Saint Lucia has been gleaned from the STAR newsroom or from the TV news. Politicians also feed me all varieties of crime stories, most of them salted to suit their party ambitions. C’est la vie.
Tuesday was different: the latest crime victim was, for a change, not just a name that was meaningless to me. He was a naturalized Saint Lucian as well known, say, as Michael Chastanet or Chris Renwick. He was also my friend. Our kids hang out together, visit each other’s homes. And yet I barely recognized his voice when Brendan McShane called to tell me four of his outlets at Pointe Seraphine had been broken into the night before, the premises ransacked and their tills emptied. Brendan had no idea how much was involved, only that the crooks had cleaned him out.
By all I later learned, three armed men had somehow climbed over Pointe Seraphine’s iron fencing unnoticed, tied up NDC’s two security guards and then proceeded to work on their chosen targets. The obvious first question: How did the crooks know McShane had not yet banked his take from the Christmas weekend? Then there are the other questions: Why didn’t they touch any of the several other unguarded stores at their disposal? Where were the regular police?
The last question can be answered this way: one of the investigators at the scene of the crime on Monday warned McShane not to expect too much since there was little he could do until his colleagues returned from Christmas vacation. Yes, dear reader, you read that right!
So much for Brendan McShane. I was on my way home around 11.30 that same Tuesday morning when a young man stopped me at the Millennium Highway turning that leads into Coubaril.
“There’s been a robbery near your home,” he said. Two men had entered a nearby guesthouse and made off with several items of value.
“Was anyone hurt?” I asked. “What about the security?” He said the guests were out at the time of the robbery but the woman who took care of them was sitting at the roadside a few hundred yards from where we were. There was no security.
I asked if anyone had called the police. He did not know for certain, he definitely had not even though he held his cell phone in his right hand as we spoke.
The housekeeper fed me the rest of the sorry story: two young men had entered the guesthouse and one had held her at knifepoint while the other went through the belongings of the absent guests who happened to be husband and wife. She had not called the police because she didn’t have access to a phone. The thieves had busted the one in the guesthouse and taken her own cell away with them. I called my office for the emergency number that I hoped would put me in immediate contact with the police. When I dialed the 7-digit number a gentleman at the other end said something that did not register, mainly because I was in such a hurry to report the robbery. He listened patiently then informed me that I had dialed the wrong number. I was actually speaking to a police officer at the Anse-la-Raye station but he would connect me to the right department. Seconds later a woman’s voice came on the line and I repeated to her what I had earlier told the Anse-la-Raye police officer. Then she asked for the housekeeper’s name. I said I had no idea, all I knew was that the poor woman was hysterical at the roadside. In any event, I couldn’t see the point of the officer’s question.
“Why don’t you dispatch some people to the address I just gave you?” I asked. “The woman’s outside, she’ll fill in all the blanks.”
“Okay,” said the voice on the other end. “I’ll notify CID.”
Three hours or so later, I took a call from someone who identified himself as a police officer on his way to the scene of the crime I had earlier reported. He faced a major problem: he wasn’t sure how to make his way to the address. I did the best I could to assist and hung up. Now I ask you dear reader, shouldn’t the investigating officer have received proper instruction from the CID before he set out on his wild-goose chase? This was not the first time the particular guesthouse had been hit by armed crooks. In one instance a visiting couple had been badly battered there. You’d think the police would by now be very familiar with the Coubaril guesthouse in question. You’d think there was at Command Center (I imagine there’s one) printed layouts of crime hotspots with clearly defined routes and shortcuts to such as guest houses, banks, hotels and so on in the respective areas. No such luck, apparently. It seems to me that our police could take lessons from Domino’s Pizza. Their delivery personnel evidently know every nook and cranny of our crime-riddled city.
Close to four hours had elapsed by the time police investigators arrived at the scene of the reported crime, a location less than a twenty minutes drive from police headquarters. Here was further clear proof that our whole system of policing is in dire need of dismantling that incompetent police officers and accommodating politicians don’t begin to tell the full awful story.