On Wednesday Morning the long-awaited 2013 crime statistics were finally released by the Royal St Lucia Police Force. In a press conference held at Chesterfield House, police commissioner Vernon Francois reflected on the highs and lows experienced by his team last year. There was a clear focus on becoming more visible in the community where there has long been distrust towards the force. Francois highlighted some of their efforts to bridge the gap starting from the top with “Meet the Commissioner”.
“The idea behind Meet the Commissioner was to go in the various communities around the island so that we can again present our program to members of the different communities and also to get their input in terms of police in St Lucia. That was very successful last year. We actually scheduled four on a quarterly basis. We ended up having five because of the demand for it.”
Francois added, “Last year we had a great emphasis on community oriented policing. Our major flagship event last year was police week. It was not an activity but a series of activities. We had hamper presentations, visits to sick and shut in police officers, Miss RSLPF Show, we also had the regional calypso show. Several police stations reached out to the young population by adopting schools and underprivileged children.”
The force was pleased to report a general reduction in some of the major crime categories including the murder and homicide rates. Despite numbers to the contrary, according to the commissioner it was a successful year in drug control.
“We want to make it clear that St Lucia is not a place for you to pass with your drugs if you’re trying to ship it to the United States or Europe.”
The commissioner was especially pleased with their execution of intelligence driven policing; particularly a case last year which resulted in the arrests of ten individuals in the troubled Morne-du-Don area.
“We didn’t do any big deal operation, have police vehicles blocking the road, and all kinds of things. We did a proper target package, gathered our intelligence, worked with informants, and we identified the gang members in the Morne-du-Don area.”
One of the new features implemented by the RSLPF is the use of an electronic crime management system custom made for the force, replacing the antiquated method of keeping registers and diaries to record crime.
This year over 19,000 crimes were reported to the police, which was a 10 percent decrease from 2012. Crime detection, where investigations have been completed, increased slightly by 3% over the previous year.
Sergeant Kenroy Renee believes that ironing out the growing pains in the system may yield even greater results.
“[T]he police uses an electronic crime management system which was implemented in 2012 and some of the problems we have realized is that reports are made, actions are taken on the ground, however, because persons are not so versed in technology and doing data entry some of the information is not entered and as a result it affects our detection rate. Like I said, these are administrative things that we have to deal with.”
The police force saw a decrease in crime in all major categories including crimes against persons, sexual offences, and crimes against property. The same cannot be said for drug offences and firearms, which continues to climb.
Renee said it is a great concern but strides are being made.
“The commissioner alluded to it earlier, that the police have developed new strategies which are focused on intelligence driven policing and as a result we have seen the rewards. New technologies, new methodologies, would automatically result in an increase in arrests, increased seizures and that I could tell you is a significant contributor to the increase because you would have more persons arrested for possession, more persons arrested with intent to
supply, trafficking, and different areas of narco-trafficking.”
He praised the vigilant efforts of the Marine Unit for their diligence at sea.
“The Marine Unit has done a fantastic job in relation to counter narcotics and the securing of our borders from the importation and exportation of contraband or drugs. High on the list of contraband for 2013 was conch or “lambi” (a delicacy and aphrodisiac, according to some locals) that was illegally harvested. The Marine Unit was able to successfully intercept a vessel during every single month of the year. In the month of March we had eleven interceptions recorded. And when I say contraband, it is not only cannabis, cocaine and other drugs. We also have persons illegally importing conch and lobster from neighbouring islands,” the commissioner says.
In terms of homicide, encompassing murder plus police killings in the execution of duty, there continues to be a steady decline. 2013 showed a decrease of eight deaths compared to 2012. It was the lowest homicide figure since 2007.
The Sergeant commended the force for this triumph stating that, “The police have been able to take control of the streets and they are able to reduce the number of reported incidents of homicide.”
It was also noted that crime is generally on the rise during the latter part of the year. This is linked to the festive season leading into Christmas.
Acting Sergeant of Police attached to the Traffic Department in Castries, Foster Chicot, shared their findings as well. The department issued a whopping 6399 fixed penalty tickets with an estimated value of 2,920,550 dollars. Out of this only 1039 were paid by the recipients. 576 accidents were recorded and reported, 21 of which were fatal, resulting in 29 deaths. Castries was the site of the highest death toll on the island. It should be noted that it is also the most highly populated of the island’s ten districts.