#Providenciales, October 15, 2019 – Turks and Caicos – “The threat of crime is real, and the long-term peace of the TCI is at risk. It is past time to trade rhetoric for action.”
On Saturday, 12th October 2019, we woke up to a report of the 13th murder of the year. This came after 10 days of brazen and unchecked violence at the hands of cowards.
On 6th March 2017, in a press statement I lamented and condemned the growing incident of violent crimes perpetrated against innocent persons. In that press statement I pledged solidarity with the Government (not silence) in the fight against crime and have since then repeatedly affirmed my belief that the fight against crime must not be a political one. On 29th July 2017, in yet another press statement, I was forced to acknowledged that our peaceful homeland was facing a crisis as both the incidence and gravity of criminal acts ballooned.
Then, on 31st July 2019 I was compelled to reluctantly issue another press statement addressing the escalation in gun crimes resulting in deaths. However, the situation in the last ten days has been the most troubling to date. Those who would rob, maim and kill us have shown that they are prepared to act in the light of day without regard for the police.
Unfortunately, the response to this threat has been routine and lukewarm, while the fate of our families and communities are being threatened. Local law enforcement is out gunned and outmanned. Law abiding citizens are imprisoned in their own homes and all the while there is a deafening silence and inaction from those who are elected to protect us, or who bear constitutional responsibility for the security of these Islands.
Fear and anxiety in our communities are running high amid calls for drastic and immediate action. We must now spare no cost or concern ourselves about individual egos in an effort to protect and bring the country back to a sense of normalcy; this calls for engagement with all stakeholders.
The structures in place to engage with stakeholders are woefully inadequate; as the Leader of the Opposition, I have no direct role in the security of the islands nor am I privy to decisions of the National Security Council. I am, however, a member of the National Security Council Advisory Group, which last met briefly on the 13th March 2019. Despite this, I have tried to provide advice to those with responsibility for direct security of these islands through press statements and monthly bilateral meetings with the Governor. While not exhaustive, the suggestions that I have made are practical, reasonable, affordable and implementable immediately.
In my July 2019 press release, I called for the following interim measures subject to the development of longer term strategies:
1. The Government to make available through supplementary appropriation, additional resources to increase police presence in the communities and places where violent crimes are prevalent;
2. The Government to pass legislation to require all residents to always carry a TCIG issued picture ID, and for visitors to provide IDs and an address on the islands when required to do so by law enforcement officers;
3. The Government to consider limited curfews at designated hours of the night in high risk areas;
4. Government to make available container and handheld scanning equipment at all ports to detect guns and other contraband;
5. The police to institute a system of surprise rolling roadblocks at strategic locations to search for firearms and other contrabands;
6. The police to make routine the search for unlicensed motor vehicles and unlicensed drivers; and
7. The cancelling of operating licences for businesses that have a history of violence on property.
In addition to the above, today I am advising the Government to take the following steps immediately.
• Re-establish the Police Training School for the training of recruits and continuous education for police officers;
• Immediately hire an additional 30 tactical trained police officers in addition to the 20 new recruits recently budgeted for;
• Institute a 90-day intensive training program for new recruits and initially deploy them on beat duty in the various communities;
• Install check points on all roads in/out of high-risk communities;
• Open at least 3 additional Police Stations/Posts – Blue Hills, Five Cays and Kew Town;
• Acquire and deploy at least twenty unmarked police cars manned by plain clothes police officers for undercover duty;
• Expedite the introduction of a biometric unique identifier system for every person legally entitled to reside in the islands;
• Create a database of Turks & Caicos Islanders deported from foreign countries;
• Introduce a witness protection legislative and support framework system for informers of violent crimes;
• Introduce Electronic Monitoring legislation to allow for the monitoring of persons on bail and parole; and
• Introduce Telephone Intercept Communications legislation like that used in the Cayman Islands.
I am fully aware that my suggestions do not take into consideration the root cause of crime in our country and therefore the measures suggested are containment, abatement and control responses. The root causes of crime are largely economic and social constructs and the political directorate must now come to grips with the need to balance rapid economic growth with home grown social development goals, economic fairness and inclusiveness to rebuild the social capital of the TCI.
Crime impacts everyone, and the solution requires active sectoral representation. The current situation demands an immediate meeting of the National Security Council Advisory Group to receive detail updates on the recently announced National Security Strategy, and to provide input into security enhancement measures to protect our communities.
Going forward it is of critical importance that the National Security Council Advisory Group is routinely engaged as critical partners in the security of the Turks and Caicos Islands.– the threat of crime is real, and the long-term peace of the TCI is at risk. It is past time to trade rhetoric for action!!! The PNP call on HMG in the UK to take strong measures now to protect the people and economy of the TCI. We call on this PDM Administration to stand with us and let us begin a non-violent protest movement until our justifiable security concerns are addressed.
May God bless us all; and may God bless the TCI.