Moving of the vendors was a long time in coming – Commissioner
The vendors who plied their trade in the Melville Street and Lower Middle Street areas are looking for new places to set up shop.
The disruption to the operations of the approximately 20 vendors began last Friday when police swooped down on under the ACE gallery and in the vicinity of C Prescott & Sons Limited, destroying some stalls and taking away others.
The move is said to have come following complaints from civilians and business owners of feeling intimidated by some of the people who are attracted to some of the stalls in these areas.
The last straw was said to be the daring daylight shooting of Lionel “Gubler” George on Tuesday November 5 at Lower Middle Street. George was shot numerous times in the face. He survived the attack and up to press time was in a stable condition at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital (MCMH).
Yesterday morning, Commissioner of Police (COP) Colin John and five other high ranking members of the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force (RSVGPF) toured these areas seeking feedback from the business community.
The Commissioner told SEARCHLIGHT that the moving of the vendors was a long time in coming and the operation conducted last Friday was in an effort to clean up certain areas of Kingstown.
But the decision to move all the vendors in these areas has come in for criticism from some members of the public who claim that only a few of the vendors are problematic and the police know who they are.
In defending the decision to move all the small businessmen, the Commissioner said according to the Kingstown Board, vending in these areas should not have been happening in the first place.
“I wouldn’t say the approach was heavy handed as they should not have been there in the first place and we had to do what we had to do,” the Commissioner said while adding that they are contemplating the next move, but the decision is not only for the police and will be done in consultation with the Kingstown Board, the Ministry of Transport and Works and business owners.
“I am sure you would agree that persons had some concerns and persons felt intimidated in passing certain areas. You have to allow citizens to go about their business in comfort and lack of fear,” stated the Commissioner.
He added that the recent wounding of George and the Monday June 10, 2019 shooting death of Rockies resident Tevin Williams, in the vicinity of ACE were not the main reasons for the removal of the vendors but the crimes were, “the catalyst that simulated this action.”
“Persons are happy that the police did it and some claim we should have done it a long time ago and make sure it is sustained,” said the Commissioner who added that they will visit with business owners in other areas of the country as well, as it is a proactive way of policing.
The touring team was made up of Deputy Commissioner Frankie Joseph; Assistant Commissioner in Charge of Operations Christopher Benjamin; Assistant Commissioner in Charge of Crime Richard Browne; Superintendent Kamecia Blake-Byam who is in charge of the Central area including Kingstown and Questelles; and Assistant Superintendent of Police Hadley Ballantyne, second in charge at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).
Minister of Transport and Works Julian Francis said on Monday that the decision had nothing to do with the Kingstown Board or his Ministry.
“This was all police activity, they did the action,” said Francis who added that it is also a matter of national security and he was not in the position to comment on the issue.