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Residents React to Crime Press Conference; Officials fail to bring comfort or confidence

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#TurksandCaicos, September 18, 2022 – Over a thousand people tuned in to the government’s joint press conference addressing the scary surge in violence in Five Cays on the weekend of September 3rd and based on the reactions many residents were thoroughly disappointed.

While the Governor, Nigel Dakin,  laid out an 8-step National Security Response, residents felt that interventions by other speakers were severely lacking in the conference which was supposed to be aimed at reassuring Five Cays and Provo residents that they were safe after seven people were shot in the span of two days; four of them fatally.

The air of residents in the press conference was one of fear, disappointment and anger.

Consistent reactions by dozens of residents expressed displeasure with the fact that there seemed to be no accountability from the force regarding their record. In addition, a barrage of comments indicated the residents believe there are major leaks in the police force, crushing claims of confidentiality by the Commissioner.

Also a bone of contention; a seeming lack of preparation by some speakers and the fact that there still seem to be no immediate measures in place to protect residents

One resident said, “This live is not reassuring at all, all it’s giving ‘we gonna try’”.  In response another resident said, “I am actually feeling worse about the situation.”

Others continued. “They never had a plan— lol, they just wanted to show up so we the people can’t say they are silent.”

“What is the plan for immediate response for what is currently happening, everything that was mentioned is near future action, nothing immediate. Our people are dying now, our people are losing sleep and are fearful now! What are the measures that are in place for the NOW!!!!!??????” was one resident’s query.

The sentiment was shared by many others including this resident who said, “This press conference is just to show that our nation doesn’t have any specific measures set in place to resolve such situations, though it has been happening for years. I mean it’s quite ridiculous that our government is taking this so lightly, we are in fear for our lives!”

Several residents were displeased with Commissioner Trevor Botting’s response in which he reiterated that the police were working hard to keep residents safe and people refused to speak to them.

One resident said, “What is the plan to keep us protected because y’all don’t have any confidentiality in that force at all.” Another chimed in. “I have no confidence in what he is saying. Talk is cheap.

“Y’all keep saying say something if you see something and when you do, your name be called before you leave the station, what plans y’all have in place to protect persons and their families if they should come forward about something they see???” One person added.

Residents in the comments also lamented the poor conviction rate calling for audits of the police force and expressing little faith in the witness protection program designed to keep informants safe.

“Is there any plan to audit the current commissioner? How many unsolved murders have occurred since he has been in his position?“

Another added. “The Force does gossip and talk too much for anybody to feel safe to trust them with information. It’s embarrassing the level of information that gets leaked.”

There were those who reiterated that the onus was on all TCI citizens to play their part in stopping crime.

One individual said “No matter what, we prove our ignorance on to many levels if we want things to change first we must listen not listen half way then criticize what can be a step in the right direction.”

Others maintained that police needed more equipment including better technology, potential sniffer dogs and better customs security to find illegal weapons.

“I don’t blame the force entirely. It’s the lack of equipment and the lack of efficient manpower that is to blame. There are other departments that should be held accountable— [including] the lack of our borders being properly protected. The firearms didn’t drop out of the air nor did they appear overnight.” A resident contended.

The solution to put lights in Five Cays to reassure residents and slow crime being committed under the cover of darkness was also poorly received by several residents.

“Lights?” One said. “These people are shooting and killing at 8 a.m!”

“Exactly!” Another agreed “They don’t GAF.”

Many residents were discomfited by MP Rachel Taylor’s speech. Some expressed concern that the matter at hand was not truly addressed and others claimed that young men in the constituency had pleaded for help and were being ignored.

“[SIC]Go look for the young men in five cays and talk to them to see what they need” one resident encouraged. Another responded directly “She doesn’t care, they beg her for help, we see her she don’t never pay us any mind.  I’m telling you from experience we beg that woman.. we follow her all the way to batchies where they had a meeting just to get her to hear us out.. all we got was “ill get back to yall”

Dozens of viewers expressed frustration that the issue at hand was lost in reporting on other social issues that could have possibly been more appropriate at another time. Comments included

“What is this conference about crime or education?“

“Is this a basketball conference?”

Stop reading and speak from the heart and feel how the people feel. TCI should be mourning now!” One viewer chided.

In addition, there was concern for the security officers who would be placed in schools and whether or not they would be armed to protect teachers, students and themselves should an unfortunate situation take place.

At this time, Turks and Caicos legislation forbids security guards being armed with guns.

One resident expressed eagerness at a stronger response to the four murders and unbridled gunfire in the community over the weekend.

“Where are the strong measures that’s coming that we the people might not like that was talked about in the Statement from the Premier at the funeral. I haven’t heard any yet or did I miss something?” One noted.

“This is frightening…these responses are very vague.”

“I don’t think the authorities grasp the gravity of the situation. At least in my opinion they don’t.” Another mentioned.

Member of Parliament for the Bight, Jay Stubbs was also concerned, adding “What should the communities on Provo look forward to immediately?”

The exasperated responses continued to the end of the press conference. There was an unmistakable air of dissatisfaction with the few solutions put forward and the fear that pushed residents to lock up and shut down in an effort to protect themselves.

Crime

Three Arrested, Drugs Seized in North Caicos

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#TurksandCaicosIslands – February 20, 2024Serious Crime Unit detectives of the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force have arrested  three men and seized a quantity of marijuana and cocaine during anti-crime operations in North  Caicos. 

Senior Officers and Magistrates issued Authorities and Warrants to Search four premises from  noon on February 14th to 3 pm today (February 16th). 

Three males, two of whom are aged 21 and an 18-year-old, were arrested for murder.  Investigations remain ongoing. 

Head of the Serious Crime and Public Protection Unit Superintendent Dean Holden said: “Our  team’s dedication and intelligence-led policing continue to play a significant role in disrupting  criminal activities.  

“Our operations will remain ongoing throughout the TCI as we continue to pursue leads and  ensure those responsible for causing fear are held accountable within the confines of the law. Our  communities deserve to feel safe, and we won’t rest until that goal is achieved.  

“I wish to also thank members of the public for their continued support and information ”. 

Additionally, Tactical Officers conducted a series of operations in Grand Turk. Several field searches were conducted in Over Back, and several items relating to ongoing  investigations were found, including a firearm. 

The public is asked to contact 911, the closest police station, the RTCIPF Serious Crime Unit at  231-1842, or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-8477 and anonymously give any information on  illegal activity.

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Crime

Elderly Tourism Man found with ammunition committed to Trial

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Wilkie Arthur

Freelance Court Correspondent

#TurksandCaicosIslands, February 15, 2024 – An elderly defendant from the United States of America appeared before her Ladyship the Hon Chief Justice(CJ) Mrs Mable Agyemang via video link from his homeland for sufficiency hearing on Friday 9th February 2024.

His attorneys King’s Counsel, Mr Oliver Smith and assisted by attorney Mrs Kimone Tennant did not challenge the sufficiency hearing and conceded that there is sufficient evidence on the papers or in the bundle to commit the accused to trial in the Supreme Court. 

MICHAEL-LEE EVANS was allegedly found with seven rounds of ammunition in his luggage upon departure at the Providenciales International Airport just before Christmas last year, on the 12th December, 2023.

He was remanded by the Magistrate’s Court on December until his sufficiency hearing in February of this year, but his attorney KC Smith filed an emergency swift bail application just before the Supreme Court was adjourned Sine Die (without date) for the holidays. 

The office of the DPP, in the person of Mrs Nayasha Hatmin opposed bail for the supposedly very ill senior citizen, but the learned Hon lady Justice Ms Tanya Lobban Jackson granted cash and signed bail to the accused and permitted him to leave the country and return for the plea and directions hearing which is now listed for him on March 22nd, 2024.

Hon. CJ, upon request by Mr. Smith, KC, reluctantly granted a far date for the old man’s plea and directions hearing (PDH). 

His PDH was to be on the February 22, along with all the other six individuals committed to stand trial at the sufficiency hearing on Friday February 9th 2024. 

However, Mr. Smith KC presented meticulous reasoning for his client, even if at the risk of briefly frustrating of the Chief Justice.  Smith requested a much later date for the next court hearing, explaining that he needed time for a decision, he was awaiting from the Court of Appeal  on a point of law regarding the issue of “Sentencing Disparity and Exceptions Circumstances” that has created a serious public outcry here in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

KC Smith said the matter involves the Attorneys General reference proceedings before the Court of Appeal and waiting the court’s findings, rulings and/or directions.

The CJ told Mr Smith that she’s not minded to push the court date any further because the matter involving the Attorney General has only to deal with sentence and nothing to do with his client going to trial. 

The CJ, in a very strong tone of voice said, “Mr. Smith KC, I don’t normally get annoyed with you but I am annoyed now, I don’t see what the Attorney General reference matter has to do with your client’s case now or being put to the next PDH.”

KC Smith still attempted to try get the CJ to see it his way and he added that he’s also not going to be in the jurisdiction at the next PDH on 22nd February. The CJ then reminded him that he’s here today before the court with his assistant Mrs Kimone Tennant allow her to do it, but he said he have conduct of the matter and would prefer doing the matter himself.

The CJ warned him that “you have used up all your Christmas presents indulgence for the year already” as she reluctantly granted him an extra month’s extension for the PDH regarding the American Tourist Michael-Lee Evans. The Plea and Directions Hearing (PDH) is set for March 22nd. 

Ms. Tassja Mitchell was for the Crown and took no position throughout but when asked by the CJ her position, she replied, “I’m guided by the Court my lady.”

The accused man’s bail was extended to his next Court date of which he will have to travel back to the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) as ordered by her Ladyship the Hon Ms.Tanya Lobban-Jackson when she granted him bail in December last year.

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Crime

LORENZO GERBEX CHARGED by Royal TCI Police

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Officers of the Serious Crime Unit of the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force have charged a man with drug and firearm-related offences. 

LORENZO GERBEX, 28, of Providenciales, was charged yesterday (February 11). Mr. Gerbex is charged with the following offences: 

  1. Conspiring to supply firearms and 
  2. Conspiring to supply cannabis. 

The accused was remanded in custody pending the next available court date. 

Head of Crime and Public Protection, Superintendent Dean Holden, said, “Following an intensive six-month investigation into the supply of firearms, ammunition and controlled drugs in the Turks and Caicos Islands, officers arrested Mr Gerbex. The charges were laid after police officers consulted with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. 

This is part of the continued efforts by the RTCIPF to target Serious and Organised Crime on the islands and reduce the associated violence. 

I again appeal to the public to give us information on illegal activities by calling 911, the Serious Crime Unit at 231-1842 or the Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-8477 (TIPS).”

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