Until a few years ago, crime was virtually unheard of in Tobago. The island lived up to a reputation as a serene island, a haven for tourists, even as there was an upsurge of crimes, particularly violent murders, in sister island Trinidad.
Sadly, that peaceful image has been shattered this year, with some particularly brutal murders already recorded. The latest, the brutal killing of gyro businessman Elias Dabbourah, who died days after being shot in the of his head during a robbery attempt at Crown Point on September 9, has prompted calls from Tobago’s business sector for action to restore safety and security.
A few months ago, in May, the island was rocked by the news that retiree John “Joker” Mills and his common-law-wife Eulyn John had been found murdered at their Cocrico Ave, Buccoo, home. They were gagged and their hands and feet bound before they were stabbed to death.
Also cause for concern is the rise in other serious crimes which, if left to continue unchecked, could inflict some serious damage on Tobago’s already struggling tourism industry.
There are reports that in Mt. Irvine, once a thriving community, there are many villas up for sale with no buyers in sight due to the number of violent robberies break-ins there. There are also more frequent attacks on visitors at Englishman’s Bay and other once-popular tourist attractions. It doesn’t help that in the majority of these cases no arrests have been made.
A disturbing pattern is emerging which warrants some swift, decisive action from the T&T Police Service (TTPS). Recent statistics show that there were nine murders in Tobago last year, 13 in 2017, and four in 2016.
Apart from that, word is getting out that foreigners are being targeted and are falling victim to the spate of violent home invasions—targetting upscale homes and luxury villas—armed robberies and thefts from hotel rooms. Several violent home invasions targeted wealthy homes and villas frequented by tourists.
There seems to be a downward spiral with security on the island, which calls for an explanation from Police Commissioner Gary Griffith about the status of his plans to use technology to battle the criminal elements in Tobago.
Stakeholders on the island, including the business sector and the Tobago House of Assembly, are owed a progress report on his proposals to introduce an air unit, emergency response control and revamp the emergency 999 system. Also, has there been any effort made to stop the trend of criminals migrating to the island from Trinidad?
In any national crime plan that is being developed right now, some focus must be placed on deploying resources and implementing special strategies for Tobago. Otherwise, there is the danger of the crime situation there spiralling further out of control.