The 29th Annual General Meeting and Conference of the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police (ACCP) was held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Port of Spain, Republic of Trinidad between 28th April and 1st May 2014.
The theme of the conference was “Working in Partnership to Combat Transnational Organized Crime”. Present at the Conference were Commissioners from: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Curacao, Dominica, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, St Kitts/Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands and United States Virgin Islands.
The conference saw all countries discuss the emerging trends we are experiencing now. Not surprisingly Gun and Gang violence, and Drug supply networks are on the increase with the US reporting the region is seeing a rise of around 16% of all illicit drugs into America and Western Europe passing through the Caribbean.
That is up from 9% which was experienced only five (5) years ago. Our murder rates are far too high, with some countries recording over fifty (50) homicides per 100 000 population. More shockingly, we heard from a Transparency International Survey that where corruption is endemic (over 60% stating it is routine), deaths in childbirths is in the 457 per 100,000 per population, as to have medical attention is assured via bribe payment which is why corruption featured in our debates, as a present and constant scourge in the region.
The ‘vulnerable’, the poor, the weak, the young are increasingly being targeted by organized crime gangs to facilitate the drug trade, and fuel the violence. Also, and quite shockingly for law enforcement all areas were reporting increased targeting of minors for sexual purposes; via cyber means or in person. In one case, we heard of modern day slavery where children aged five (5) upwards were being bought in Asia brought to the Caribbean for between US$8000 and US$14000 and put into modern day slavery, some into servitude, some believed being trafficked for sex. A further concern has been the increasing time cases are taking to get before the Courts, in some cases up to ten (10) years. This is resulting in increasingly dangerous offenders, being granted bail, which is further fueling violence as witnesses are targeted and assassinated.
Justice delayed is justice denied be it for victim, witness or accused. In one country, 80 square miles, there are 400 serious offenders on bail, for murder and rape. Should we be surprised that murders are increasing and are apparently unstoppable? The threat we face is a real one, of growing lawlessness.
The police alone are not the answer. In fact we are arresting more than ever, but unless they are taken before the Courts expeditiously, it is to no avail. As an association we have committed to fully engaging with Government and the Judiciary to do all we can to expedite court appearances. We will support 24 hour Courts to clear the backlog; we will change the processes we have to put witnesses and victims at the heart of the criminal justice system. We ask our key partners to commit similarly to the recovery of public confidence and faith in the rule of law.
We have shared best practice with each other, which has included sharing new legislation between ourselves. What equipment and what intelligence has worked and will make us effective. Jamaica is leading for the association in piloting a real time intelligence template that identifies trends in one country; cyber crime or ATM fraud as example to be immediately flagged to colleagues and acted upon.
The ACCP has championed active ballistic crime scene data to be connected between each country in the region, enabling weapons used across the region to be identified and crime scenes connected, all helping to track and find the killers. RIBIN is the technical name, Regional Integrated Ballistics Information Network linking those weapons to the smuggling routes used by organized crime network and will inform our understanding of how weapons are passed from the US or South America to arrive in every island in the Caribbean.
More importantly identifying how these routes can be closed. Finally in an effort to safe guard our officers and our communities, project triage has had its first delivery of Trauma Kits to every ACCP country. This will also save lives of gun and stabbing victims. • 2 of 3 bleed out • 320 in 2013 • 4000 by end of May • Intention for all operation officers to have these kits We achieve more when co-operating in and sharing best practice. This has been a great conference, a sincere thank you to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service who made it happen and did so with such welcoming and good grace.