Content Distribution Editor
Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds has told regional Police Commissioners they must improve on crime-fighting techniques and look to new ways to battle the scourge of criminal activity across the Caribbean now.
Hinds made the comment while delivering the feature address at the opening of the 37th Annual General Meeting (AGM) and Conference of the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police (ACCP) at the Hyatt Regency in Port-of-Spain yesterday, which is themed Transnational Organised Crime: A growing threat to regional security.
Hinds warned the regional Police Commissioners that organised crime is the biggest challenge facing them at present.
“The organised crime networks have formed alliances with carefully nurtured and selected players. They use their vast amount of money and power to corrupt critical institutions in our countries….”
He revealed that eight Caribbean nations are currently within the top 20 of the world’s most dangerous countries based on the high rates of homicides per capita.
He also said every day in Caricom, roughly 14 people are killed due to conflicts, inter-personal violence and the rate of Caricom deaths in the member states was almost three times the global average. This, he revealed, is fuelled by firearms, which are used in 75 per cent of all homicides across the Caribbean. Of the 605 murders T&T recorded in 2022, Hinds said 87 per cent of them were carried out with firearms.
He said cyber-crimes such as online scams, ransomware and compromised business e-mails are increasingly problematic in the region and the web is now a facilitator for transnational organised crime within the region.
“It is imperative that our region focuses on building domain awareness, cyber, air and maritime, since these three domains are the main facilitators of trans-national organised crime,” Hinds told the audience.
He added, “In order to combat this (organised crime), there has to be a systems-wide approach, inclusive of prevention, capacity building to address intelligence and investigation, a robust legislative framework to have updated legislation to support the judicial process, a strengthened criminal justice system, and a strengthened corrections process which supports the important business of rehabilitation and reintegration.”
Hinds also pointed to irregular migration, which he said continues to be a threat to the region. He said migration routes are shifting and the Caribbean is now being seen as a means of reaching the final destination, which is the United States.
Hinds also said, “The transshipment of cocaine is also increasing and the routes are more diverse than ever, with more cocaine heading to Europe through very creative and varied routes.”
Hinds said organised crime must be dealt with, as it is having a serious impact on the region’s young people.
“It is the main problem because it has spawned crime business models and made a big business of crime. It has professionalised it, made it transnational, generating huge income streams from drug trafficking to extortion and it has made the criminal networks powerful players in a number of our little communities around this region.”
Earlier, Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher led the parade of regional commissioners at the start of the conference and delivered the welcome address. She said she expects “animated discourses and engaging high quality presentations” throughout the course of the week-long exercise.
International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) president John Letteney, who is also the Chief of Police in Thomasville, Georgia, also told colleagues there is now greater need for collaboration between security agencies given the complexity of fighting crime.
“To successfully intervene in transnational activity, it is imperative that agencies worldwide are able to communicate and collaborate against potential threats. As criminals become more sophisticated across our borders, our means of enforcement must follow suit,” Letteney said.
Among those from around the region attending the conference are Commissioners Richard Boyce (Barbados), Darrin Simons (Bermuda), Major General Antony Anderson (Jamaica) and the region’s other current female Police Commissioner Crusita Descartes-Pelius (St Lucia).