Saturday, April 13, 2024

Year In Review: Violent Crime

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In 2022, there was a continuous trend of violent crimes in Barbados.

The country recorded 43 murders, the second highest total ever.

There were also increased efforts by Police and Government to combat crime.

The Mia Mottley administration faced criticism for its handling of the crime situation. Many citizens felt that not enough was being done to address the problem and the necessary steps were not being taken to keep the public safe.

Ironically, the year started off quietly as the country was reeling from another spike in COVID-19 cases.

The first murder was recorded on February 5. Shaquon Stanford, 25, of 2nd Avenue Skeete’s Road, The Ivy, St Michael, was sitting on the step outside his residence using his cell phone, when he was shot by a lone gunman. This set off a number of other similar types of shootings.

While all the shooting incidents were not fatal, some were more brazen than others.

This was seen on November 5 when a man was shot at Eagle Hall while on board a route taxi. A vehicle drove to the side of it and an unknown assailant fired into the public service vehicle which had terrified passengers onboard.

August was the deadliest month, with seven killings recorded.

Two men – Loris Malik Rasheed Gittens, 22, of 10B Bottom Close, Wildey, St Michael; and Michael Keenan Blackett, 27, Block 2C , Flat Rock, St George – were found dead with gunshot wounds at Long Beach, Christ Church on August 1.

Police investigators on the scene at Long Beach, Christ Church, where two bodies were found. (Picture by Reco Moore)

Akil Amir Jaaunai Bryan, 26, was shot and killed at Beckwith Street, St Michael on August 15.

Orlando Maughan of Valerie, St Michael died in an altercation on August 23 and seven days later, Barbados recorded three shootings within five hours, two of them were fatal.

Twenty-one-year-old Jarad Trismal Jones-Cox was Killed at Kings Gap, Eagle Hall, St Michael and hours later, Rommel Trotman, 43, of Redman’s Gap, Westbury Road, St Michael was gunned down near his home.

In light of the three shooting incidents, Police Commissioner Richard Boyce explained that these types of investigations were complex and took some time to be resolved.

Earlier that month, Barbados was involved in a major drug bust.

On August 7, one Colombian was arrested and marijuana with a street value of $72 063 420 was seized in Barbados following months of surveillance, intelligence gathering and collaboration with regional law enforcement agencies.

It was clear that the current legislative measures aimed at combating crime were not working, and Government in its attempt to fix this, created a new ministerial post.

On October 26, Member of Parliament for The City, Corey Lane, took up the role as Minister of State in the Attorney General’s Office with Responsibility for Crime Prevention.

He said his focus would be on “crime prevention and crime reduction”, and not crime fighting.

Just days prior, Police carried out an operation at the Bridgetown Port in which they seized guns and ammunition.

Lawmen said on October 24, at about 11 a.m., they were called in after officials at the Bridgetown Port, during a routine search, discovered a number of firearms, magazines, and ammunition in a barrel. About 35 guns and over 700 rounds of ammunition were discovered.

With shootings seemingly on the rise, a press conference was held with the police top brass, and the Attorney General on November 10. There, police assured the public that despite the recent surge in gun violence, they were “on top of the situation”.

Acting Police Commissioner Erwin Boyce said the Barbados Police Service would be taking a no-nonsense approach to tackling crime.

Boyce’s assurance came against the backdrop of three shooting deaths recorded that week. On Sunday November 6, in two separate incidents, 22-year-old Coby Shepard was killed at Upper Gills Road, St Michael, and Mark Anthony Armstrong, 47, of Hothersal Turning, St Michael were killed in The City. Odwin Ryan Grannum, 39, of Licorish Village, My Lord’s Hill, St Michael was shot and killed as well.

At that point Boyce disclosed that 18 of the 29 murder cases for the year had been solved. He also revealed that over 127 firearms had been recovered at that point, compared to 78 in 2021..

On November 12, former Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith said it appeared that recent fixes put in place to stem the flow of guns through the ports of entry were not working.

Griffith, who raised concerns about perceived cracks in the border controls for almost a decade, told the Saturday Sun the relevant authorities owed the country some answers to some very serious questions.

Government, on more than one occasion, said one of the main issues affecting the judicial system was the backlog of criminal cases, and in its attempt to resolve this, three judges were sworn in on December 7.

They were Justice Wanda Blair, Justice Westmin James and Justice Anthony L. Blackman.

There were two prominent cases that grabbed the public’s attention last year – the Warren Mottley inquest and the 2019 shooting death at Sheraton Mall.

Beginning with the latter, on November 22, Hakeem Roberto Stuart was found guilty of murder by unanimous decision.

Stuart, 24, of Shelburne Gap, St Lawrence, Christ Church, had pleaded not guilty to killing 32-year-old Damian Trotman on March 21, 2019, at Sheraton Centre, also in Christ Church.

The jury took three-and-a-half hours to return a decision in the No. 3 Supreme Court.

The matter lasted for three-and-a-half weeks. A 12-member mixed jury heard the matter, while Justice Carlisle Greaves presided.

One month later, the Warren Mottley inquest concluded.

On December 23, it was ruled that it was gross negligence by the doctors who were involved in the care of Warren Mottley, the brother of the Prime Minister.

In an hour-and-a-half decision, Coroner Graveney Bannister having reviewed the evidence – taken over six months – he found there was a failure to diagnose or misdiagnose and a failure to treat the infection.

Mottley, died on June 29, 2021. (AL)

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