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Protecting our assests

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Just this week I was taking a walk in capital Kingstown when I noticed some one painting the burglar bars on a store front. You may say that painting is an ordinary every day chore and has nothing to do with the crime situation. What struck me was that the whole store front was barricaded with wrought iron bars. Nothing is wrong with store owners wanting to protect their property, but is this going to be the state of affairs in the city?{{more}} Since this aroused my interest, I looked around at other buildings and noticed that it was not an isolated case. No longer satisfied with placing of bars on the inner side of the window glass, store owners are preparing in the event that the burglar decides to strike by throwing a rock at the window glass.

Stores in Kingstown

The spectacle indicates that there is burglary in this country and a good way of knowing about the crime situation in any country is to look at the way people protect their property. In other words the more incidents of burglary and the greater the fear of burglary is the more burglar bars that would be placed over windows and doors, even though burglars, in pursuing their trade, take along tools to rip up the bars. Last week’s newspaper reports three young men before the Magistrate who were found guilty of burglarizing a business place in Kingstown.

Homes are targets too

Residential areas are not spared the scourge of burglary and the wrought iron bars are now an essential part of home security. We are made prisoners in our own houses. Those who are building houses must make burglar bars an essential part of the budget since it appears almost impossible to go back to the days when doors and windows were left open without fear. Many persons also see the need to expend monies on expensive camera systems to catch thieves. I still have hope that one day we would return to those days when we were able to leave our doors and windows open without fear.

Burglary is a traumatic experience and it leaves the victim with the feeling that his or her rights and privacy have been violated. The experience of returning to one’s home to see a door broken down does not fade so easily.

The offence

Burglary is an offence under the law. Section 217 (1) of Cap 124 of the Laws of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Revised Edition,1990, states that any person who enters any building or part of a building as a trespasser and with intent to commit any offence mentioned in subsection (2) or having entered any building as a trespasser, steals, or attempt to steal anything in the building or that part of it, or inflicts, or attempts to inflict, on any person therein grievous bodily harm, is guilty of an offence and is liable to imprisonment for fourteen years.

The offences given in subsection 2 are stealing, inflicting bodily harm to a person or assaulting any woman in the building, or doing unlawful damage to the building or anything in it. Stealing from a vehicle or vessel is also regarded as burglary.

The law regards aggravated burglary as a more serious crime. This is where the offence is committed and the person had a weapon, firearm or explosives. The penalty is imprisonment for life.

Despite the condemnation of this dastardly act by private and public persons, the works of the police and the printed and electronic media, burglary continues on an average of 90 cases (reported) each month. Obviously we are not reaching the offenders. Do they tell themselves that they are invincible? Society needs to reform these offenders and it has to start at the prison because many of these are repeat offenders. Provision must, therefore, be made to help the prison to do so.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com

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