Increased police presence to address Bequia yacht attacks
Over 200 persons, including key stakeholders at every level of the tourism industry, attended a meeting held last Friday, November 4, at the St. Maryâs Anglican Church in Port Elizabeth, according to Tourism and Industry Minister Saboto Caesar.
Those in attendance also included area representative Dr Godwin Friday; Commissioner of Police, Keith Miller, and a representative from the Coast Guard, Caesar told SEARCHLIGHT.
According to Caesar, the Rapid Response Unit (RRU) already has a presence on Bequia, but their primary focus is that of narcotics.
He said there is a need for all police units to be âbeefed upâ on the island.
This was just one of the proposed measures.
Another strategy tabled was that of patrols in and around the Bay area of Port Elizabeth, the Minister of Tourism and Industry said.
âWe are trying to work on and have already located patrol boats for the harbour,â Caesar told SEARCHLIGHT.
Patrols are expected to be conducted between 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., as these are the times when persons tended to leave their vessels unattended.
âThat is also the period when people will want to take part in criminal activities.â
All this will be complemented by a number of covert operations that members of the community will be working on together, the minister said.
âWe just wanted the community to know that what they saw was not all, and that there is a lot of covert work that we will be doing in order to protect persons who are coming in,â Caesar explained.
The tourism minister was expected to travel to Bequia again on Tuesday, November 8, to meet with the committee set up to fine tune all the recommendations coming out of last Fridayâs meeting.
Several other issues were addressed, including amendments to existing legislation.
Herman Belmar, Deputy Director of Grenadines Affairs, indicated that one of the problems was the need to speed up the time for processing cases in court, because in most instances, by the time persons are caught, the visitors have already left.
âIf they (tourists) are not here to say what happens and they leave a written statement and thatâs not sufficient, the perpetrators get away with a little spanking,â Belmar said.
However, Caesar said that he will be writing to the Attorney General for advice on the matter.
In the meantime, members of the Bequia community are being asked to be vigilant and to report any suspicious activities to the authorities.
A call centre to accommodate such activity is to be set up, so members of the public may report these activities to police personnel, Caesar said.
A joint task force between the police and Ministry of Tourism will be set up to educate persons on what they need to look out for.
Caesar told SEARCHLIGHT that he is optimistic that the measures identified will be successful in putting an end to the yacht robberies.
âI am really confident that we have nipped the issue in the bud,â he said.
The minister made reference to a similar situation which occurred in the Tobago Cays earlier this year, saying that similar measures were put in place and the problem there was resolved.
âWe are looking forward to the same thing on Bequia.â
Meanwhile, he added that the recent developments have not been affecting yachting statistics, saying that the numbers are up.
According to Caesar, the yachting sector has been up by 7.4 per cent for the year and 7.7 per cent between the months September 2010 and September 2011.
He further contended that he was given the assurance by yacht owners and operators that the numbers were expected to increase in 2012 and 2013.
âThis is significant – here I am dealing with a problem of criminality for a sector that keeps growing in the midst of a global crisis,â Caesar explained. (DD)