Monday, 21 May 2012 02:30
By Alex Holder
Antigua St John's - Serial break-ins in the English Harbour area must be attacked through a collaborative approach that includes local law enforcement with a solid backing from individuals and communities.
Some time ago, Commissioner of Police and Superintendent of the Dockyard Police Outpost met with residents of the area, and several strategies were discussed. Details have not yet been ascertained.
But according to information from one of the victims, who talked to this publication on condition of anonymity, what is of notable concern to community members is the number of break-ins and the increasing gravity of each.
Antigua is being seen as an unsafe place to visit, much less invest in, the victim said. He recounted an incident recently where a British family's home was invaded and they were robbed of cash, jewelry, a rental car and their sense of security.
Most of the break-ins and other incidents occurred during the staging of the 2012 Antigua Sailing Week, which saw an unusually high police presence in the area. A young woman was reportedly almost raped on the beach during that time, but was spared through the collective efforts of the police and the community.
“These are matters that must be taken seriously by police and the wider community,” the victim said.
He noted that various types of neighbourhood watch groups must be set up in various communities so that everyone is looking out for everyone else and not just themselves.
Police Commissioner Vere Brown reportedly admitted during the meeting with the English Harbour community to not having enough resources in the form of personnel and finances to handle the magnitude of the situation in that community and across the territory.
The English Harbour Police Station closes its doors around 12 pm and does not open again until 6 am the following day. The outpost also has only one telephone line that does not allow callers to leave messages if they are unable to reach an officer.
“People who come here come so that they do not have to worry about things like these, and what is going on can quickly get out of hand," the victim said. "We need to work together, and that’s the only way that this can be addressed."
A group of English Harbour residents is working to establish a community policing system that could be established in areas across the island, and this is being done with strong backing from the local police.
But for now, some residents have invested thousands of dollars into home security systems and even 24-hour security personnel in strategic areas.
“Bad-minded and ill-intended criminals continue to raise havoc around the island," the victim said. "These people have to be apprehended and dealt with properly and contained for longer periods."
Some believe that the latest break-ins have been the work of someone recently released from prison.
"What we're concerned about is preventative methods," the source said. "What you really want to try to achieve is to prevent something from happening in the first place, and how that actually happens, we're still trying to find out."
He added that the onus falls on the shoulders of the community to make sure that their individual and community families are safe.
“We don't have to like each other, but we do have to respect each other, and the right to not have to live in fear or live in a cage that is supposed to be occupied by the criminals," she said. "We don't want to be like a little Jamaica. We need to protect Antigua and we don't need to lose any business in this economy. The nation and the people of the nation need to come forward and be involved. The problem is bigger than the police."
Holder said the English Harbour Police Station closes its doors at midnight, like every other station across the country. But while the doors are closed, there are supposed to be officers in available on call.
The Police spokesman also confirmed that there is only one telephone to service the station, as far as he was aware.
Caribarena.com tried to get an update from the officers on duty about the status of the any beefed-up security measures for the area in response to the situation at hand. But the officers said they were not authorized to speak to the press and referred this publication back to Holder, who said he still had not been briefed from the Commissioner.
Police Spokesman William Holder said he could not provide an update from the police’s perspective on the way forward with the meeting since he was not present.