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Crime remains pervasive in St. Kitts and Nevis


by Eulana Weekes

St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): For the first time in five years, the murder toll in St. Kitts and Nevis rose to more than 20.

The country recorded its 20th and 21st murder in less than 48 hours of each other; a shooting incident late Saturday night September 09 and a stabbing incident early Monday evening, September 11.

When the homicide toll surpassed 20 in 2018, there were 23 recorded – an equivalent to 2017.

In the first quarter of this year (January to April), nine murders were recorded in St. Kitts and Nevis. However, by June 2023, an additional eight persons were murdered, bringing the toll to 17, according to police statistics.  A month later, two young people were killed in separate incidents.

Police data covering all of 2023 is not expected until early 2024, but according to the sentiments of the general public the current trend follows a grim past. In 2013 there were 21 homicides, 24 in 2014, 29 in 2015 and 32 in 2016.

According to Police statistics, there was one “Shooting at with Intent” matter in 2020, four of the same in 2021 and three in 2022. As at June 2023, five cases were recorded.

There were no “Firearm Woundings” between 2020 and 2022. However, two were recorded between January and June 2023.

Six “Attempted Murder” cases were recorded in 2020, 2021 and again in 2022. Between the period January to June 2023, four cases were recorded.

Former Chief Medical Officer, now government advisor, Dr. Patrick Martin recently put the impact of gun violence into perspective.  He described the current situation not just as a national security issue but also a health issue.

What’s behind the national uptick in homicides?

Members of society have been pointing at some of the factors that may have contributed to this upward trend, but with no certainty.

On popular local radio programmes, discussions about the killings have been centred around individuals’ attitudes, the Peace programme, exclusion of people from social welfare programmes, parenting skills, unemployment, poverty and revenge.

On the part of National Security, no motives for the killings were openly identified. However, there have been arrests and charges laid in relation to some of the homicides committed in 2023.

At “The Roundtable” discussion on April 19, 2023, National Security Minister Dr. Terrance Drew said he had spoken to Dr. Geoffrey Hanley- Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education to establish a Task Force to look at childcare and behavioural intervention from the Early Childhood level. “The earlier we intervene, the more success we’ll have,” the Prime Minister stated.

He explained “If you get it wrong between 0 and 5, it becomes extremely difficult to correct it. That is why I think it was mentioned that maybe in the Primary Schools you would find  people gravitating to gangs. That is known. If you don’t intervene early enough and you have an environment where a particular lifestyle is glorified, it can draw vulnerable people to it.”

Firearms are not known to be manufactured in St.Kitts and Nevis, but within the past decade, a majority of the homicides in the Federation were linked to firearms.

“We have to impress on the United States of America to stop the guns from coming to the Caribbean. The United States of America has to do its part. We are saying to the United States of America that we have worked with you when it comes to drugs going up North and we are saying, work with us to stop the guns from coming South; because we know, guns plus gangs plus drugs equal violence, murders,” said Dr. Drew.

The Federation, currently in 2023 is averaging two homicides a month based on the current trend; a majority being young men between 18 and 47.

In his Installation Ceremony in February 2023, Commissioner of the Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force- Mr James Sutton outlined seven crime prevention initiatives that will guide the organisation during his tenure; namely, Community Policing, Road Safety, Human Resource Development, Better use of technology, Ongoing collaboration with other agencies and Evidence-based Policing.

Combating crime is a collective approach. Therefore, the Commissioner advised the general public to assist law enforcement with its crime fighting efforts.

“The Police Force cannot do the job of crime prevention by themselves. Partnerships must be forged with the community whom we serve. We are here to serve the public and I am optimistic [that] despite our current challenges, we will succeed in renewing policing by consent. Statistics consistently indicate a downward trend in violent crimes, such as homicides and shootings. You can be reassured that the police will continue to play a huge role in ensuring that this standard is maintained by adopting evidence based tactics and hot spot policing. Strategically and intelligently deploying officers in these areas can have a significant impact on preventing and reducing violent crimes.”

The Police High Command also launched Operation Reassurance early in his tenure to tackle the homicides and other criminal activities. Under that regime, lawmen maximised their presence on the ground executing search warrants, conducting mobile patrols, foot patrols, vehicle searches, gang engagements etc.


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