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Law enforcement scoring wins

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When our law enforcement authorities get it wrong, we are not shy about calling them out about it. So, when they score big victories in the war against crime, particularly in relation to getting dangerous firearms off the street, we need to give them their due.

Since the start of the year, the police have seized a sub-machine gun, shotguns, pistols and revolvers and a large quantity of ammunition. And what is of particular concern is that in some instances, when the firearms were unearthed, ski masks, gloves, overalls and other items one may consider components of the toolkits of professional ‘hit men’, were found along with the weapons.

As alarming as these finds might be to civilians, when everything is put into perspective, we really should not be surprised. The year just ended, 2016, was a horrendous one for us, with 40 persons being killed by violent means, 28 with the use of firearms. The police have made public their theory that the majority of these homicides by firearm have some relationship to an ongoing drug war between two groups.

It is in this context that the recent finds by the police of a sub-machine gun, shotguns and ammunition must be applauded. Special recognition should be given to the handful of very alert, agile and committed police officers involved in these seizures who, from evidence presented in court, exemplify what we expect of all our police officers.

The Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force (RSVGPF) perhaps would say that taking firearms off the streets is nothing new, with 43 guns having been seized in 2016. However, what seems to be different in the present circumstances is the type of weapon being found, the paraphernalia found along with the guns and the fact that these seizures are accompanied by a most welcomed lull in homicides in the country. So far for the year, there has been one homicide, with the suspect in that matter believed to have used a licensed firearm.

But while we are seeing seizures of firearms and convictions and imprisonment for such, there are still far too many instances in which murder suspects are freed because of inadequate or slipshod investigations. What is worrying is that some of the people who are freed are suspects in multiple serious crimes and when they are let go, those who testified against them, and the public in general, are put at risk.

We know that lacklustre policing is not because of an insufficiency of manpower, as the number on roll in the local constabulary is probably nearing 1,000. We also know that the members of the RSVGPF possess the capacity to be trained, as the academic qualifications of the average police officer entering the Force is much higher than it was 15 to 20 years ago. We suspect that the deficiency has arisen because with widespread budget cuts at international agencies, overseas training opportunities for our young officers are now very limited, as is the availability of modern forensic tools that would make their jobs easier.

When the annual budget of the RSVGPF is being devised, training and scientific tools must be given as much priority as the quantity of boots on the ground.

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