Recent spate in crime

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By Kenicia Francis

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Commissioner of Police, Atlee Rodney said the police are concerned about the uptick in criminal activity. 

Rodney said that the police are taking crime very seriously and are carrying out measures to safeguard the population.

For the year, there have been one murder each month.

 This brings the total to five with this month’s murder of a 24-year-old man, Kevin Vasciannie, outside a St John’s nightclub early Wednesday morning. 

Police have arrested three men in connection with the murder of Vasciannie who was gunned down shortly after 4:30am after an altercation inside the Asylum Club – previously known as the G Spot – spilled out into the street. 

The young man, who was shot once in the lower body, is the son of the club’s operator. 

One of the men was arrested after police executed a search warrant at his Independence Drive home at around 3:30 Thursday afternoon. 

Nothing of interest was found, but the man was taken to Langfords Police Station. Two other men, a 32-year-old also of Independence Drive, and a 31-year-old from Buckleys, have also been arrested in connection with the same incident. 

Meanwhile, a second man injured in Wednesday’s shooting remains on the surgical ward of the Sir Lester Bird Medical Centre. 

Darien Rover, who was shot in the abdomen, underwent emergency surgery and is said to be recovering.

This is coming a week after MP Richard Lewis issued a press release stating, “Crime in Antigua and Barbuda is spiraling out of control, and the Minister of National Security and Public Safety, Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin, seems not to have a clue as to how to address this dangerous situation.”

“Despite all the promises from Minister Benjamin to adequately support the police force, to develop an actionable crime-fighting strategy, and to provide a forensic crime lab, none of these promises have materialised up to today. Further, even as the public trembles in fear, Minister Benjamin has still not made any attempt to consult with community groups to give them the opportunity to share their concerns and make recommendations to help stem the tide of increasing crime,” it continues.

The press release also stated, “With all this failure, what is most irresponsible and negligent is that the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Honourable Gaston Browne, has made no effort to hold Minister Benjamin accountable for his blatant failure. I am calling on Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin and his leader, Gaston Browne, to take immediate and decisive action to stop the spiraling crime crisis in Antigua and Barbuda.”

Minister of Legal Affairs Steadroy Benjamin responded to the press release saying that Richard is, “trying to give the impression that things are not under control. He’s quite so wrong. We do have a spate of crimes happening at the moment, petty crimes, but these are cyclical. An examination of the records over the years will show that at this time, normally, until just after the Carnival celebrations, there seems to be always an increase in crime. But we have got it under firm control. When one compares the amount of crime over the years, what’s happening now, it follows a similar pattern.”

“Lots of arrests have been made, the criminals have been taken off the street, and the matters are being addressed in a meaningful manner. So, yes, even though he has the right to make a comment as a Representative, sometimes those concerns are quite out of order and misplaced. What is noteworthy though, and what I’m very concerned about, is the availability of firearms in this country. We’ve tried to address the problem. A number of arrests have in fact been made and people have been prosecuted. I want the people of this nation to understand that the security forces, we are doing our best.” he continued.

In closing, Benjamin revealed, “Antigua still has the lowest crime rate in the entire hemisphere in which we reside. We are lower than every other jurisdiction in this area, from Jamaica right down to Guyana. On our island right now, for example, we’ve had about four or five murders, but we are still the lowest and have been the lowest for many years. And we will continue to do so.”

Rodney, in an interview on ABS stated, “In recent times, we have more reporting of crimes. What you find in the past, a number of crimes were reported to the police but not to the general public. Nowadays with the advent of social media, you find there is much more reporting of those incidents. So when you look at the numbers in terms of the crimes, in some cases the numbers just about remain the same. the prevalent reporting obviously creates anxiety among the members of the public.”

“We pay attention to what is happening. We have responded in terms of focusing our resources in some areas, strengthening some areas that we felt that could get some improvement in terms of the number of officers in that area. The number of robberies we are having, the number of house breaking, these are some of the main concerns that we have. Also, the use of firearms when it comes to those robberies. That is a concern because as much as we have recovered quite a few firearms last year, and into this year, it is still becoming a problem.” he continued. 

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