It’s no secret that I have openly praised the work of Superintendent Sharon Beeput since her transfer to Hanover to take over the parish’s daunting crime situation, which was way out of control when she got here. Beeput, along with her team of committed officers, have been doing well to earn the confidence of the parish’s citizenry and also the men and women in uniform whom she leads. However, she cannot rest on her laurels; she will need to be consistent if these gains are to be maintained because last week alone has shown that whilst the guns have gone silent, they definitely have not gone dead.
Two women were shot dead and five other persons injured in two separate attacks carried out by gunmen in the parish on Thursday. Those killed are Ronda Smith, a 38-year-old resident of Salt Spring, St James, otherwise called ‘Suzie’, and Barbara Gilpin, a 58-year-old woman. The first attack took place about 10:20 p.m. Smith, another female and three males, were walking in Green Island, Hanover, when they were held up and shot by two armed thugs.
The injured persons were assisted to hospital where Smith was pronounced dead on arrival, and the others were admitted in stable conditions. Less than two hours later, gunmen struck in the Cousins Cove community, where Gilpin was killed and a man who was in her company was shot and injured. The police said they received calls that a house was being shot up in the New Town area of Cousins Cove. On their arrival, Gilpin and her companion were seen with gunshot wounds. Gilpin had wounds to her upper body and the man to his left leg and thigh.
Both were assisted to hospital where Gilpin was pronounced dead on arrival, and the man admitted in stable condition.
This wanton bloodletting has again thrown the parish in a tail-spin and has gotten many residents afraid. The hardworking superintendent needs to ensure that this current crime trend is a one-off situation and that it doesn’t happen consistently. Beeput, who took up command of the then crime-infested parish in March last year, did so at a time when there was a 500 percent increase in crime over the previous year, 2016. By the end of the year, it was down to about 13 percent (decrease over the previous 12 months). This was not achieved by the police alone, but with great partnership from civil society, which was just not pleased with the high level of violence that existed.
In 2015, there were 60 murders versus 53 in 2016, a decrease of seven. A breakdown of the crime figures for 2017 by the five police divisions in Hanover revealed that Lucea, the parish’s capital, recorded 27 murders; Sandy Bay, six murders; Green Island, 11 murders; Kingsvale, 14; and Ramble, 2. The questions then need to be asked: What are the socio-economic factors that drive criminality? Why is it that Lucea has high numbers of shooting incidents? Is the gang violence as a result of lottery scamming? The point can be made that lottery scamming is prevalent all over the parish, so why is there a concentration of shootings in the Lucea and Green Island Divisions? Twenty-one firearms were also recovered during the year, along with approximately 130 rounds of ammunition.
SOME COPS TOO COMFORTABLE
It is obvious that some police officers are comfortable in their current positions. Many are stationed at the police station for years, which has led to complacency. The parish needs a reshuffling of personnel. Officers complain that the ones who do the work are the ones who are forgotten when promotions come around. Some officers have no cases before the courts whilst some have far too many. Driving through Hopewell and Lucea, the traffic situation is very bad. Who is assigned to address traffic in Hopewell? Are there cops assigned? If so, why is the bus park not being used? One of Hanover’s most feared cops, Corporal Tingling, was recently transferred from the Sandy Bay Police Station. Tingling, a veteran of the Force, drives fear in criminal elements in the Sandy Bay area. Why was he transferred to Lucea? If senior officers like these can be moved around like a football, then other officers will be less motivated to perform. There are other scenarios that I am going to look at over the next few weeks, especially the situation at the Sandy Bay Police Station, where some cops have told me personally that they are not comfortable. Miss Beeput needs to address these issues. Again, she has my full support but if she eases her feet off the pedal, more women and kids will die. It is very important that cops in the parish are made comfortable so they can protect us from criminal elements.