By anguillian November 6, 2017 11:59




More than eight weeks after Hurricane Irma devastated Anguilla, the Royal Anguilla Police Force, whose buildings suffered much damage and inconvenience, continues to look out for the interest and welfare of the community while dealing with its own calamity.

Acting Commissioner, Elliott Forbes, now in charge of the force, in the absence on vacation leave of Commissioner Paul Morrison, gave The Anguillian a glimpse into its post-hurricane recovery progress and, most importantly, its work in the community.

Mr. Forbes spoke at Police Headquarters where major sections of the roof, now covered with tarpaulin, were ripped off by the hurricane; windows blown out; air condition units thrown off the roof; the covering of the connecting ducts in the ceiling blown away, and the perimeter security wire fence blown down, but is now being replaced with a concrete wall fence.

“About 85 percent of the sheeting on our roof went during the hurricane and it blew open one or two windows,” he reported. “As a result, we received a significant amount of water which trickled down to the lower floor and flooded a number of rooms. We have had to create a sort of makeshift arrangement – and an operation recovery team was put in place.

“In essence, the recovery team focused on repair efforts using our limited resources. The team involved a small number of police officers coming together to do the necessary repairs. Given the fact that Hurricane Maria was just around the corner, it meant that we had to expedite the process by securing the windows blown out by Hurricane Irma, so that we could minimise any further impact on our headquarters.”

Mr. Forbes was asked why the repair work on the roof of the building appeared to be taking a fairly long time to be started. “Primarily, the Ministry of Infrastructure has responsibility for replacing the roof and also refitting our air condition units. This work will cost a significant amount of money – and it must be recognised that other Government buildings were also severely damaged, and the Ministry has to look at those as well,” he replied.

“However, I can safely say that we are at a stage where the appropriate person is sourcing the relevant contractors to do the necessary work. That wheel is turning, but is a bit slow.” There is a large amount of building materials stacked on the front compound of the police headquarters, but the Acting Commissioner said that, while it was to repair Government buildings, he was not aware of what was to be used at the police building.

He acknowledged, however, that the police recently received some building supplies from the Department of Infrastructure – including blocks now being used to erect a security wall at the back of the police headquarters. The work is being done by a number of officers giving voluntary service which coordinated coordinated by the Department of Infrastructure. The concrete wall was planned prior to the hurricane but, now that the wire fence was blown down, the need to better secure the police premises was seemingly hastened by the storm.

The Acting Commissioner stressed that the damage and inconvenience at police headquarters was in no way inhibiting the work of the force in the community. “We still have that responsibility to maintain law and order throughout the community,” he said. “In any adversity, our primary role will remain our prevention and detection of crime.”

He continued: “We were able to deal with that matter by working out a four-pattern shift system. Such a system put more officers on the frontline to respond to crime. As a result of the new shift pattern, we were able to factor in an east, west and central patrol – after the hurricane – to combat/control crime, and it worked effectively. The police were throughout the community 24/7 at different points and times.”

Asked what some of the crimes the police dealt with were, Mr. Forbes stated: “During that period, in essence, we dealt with the normal crimes of thefts and burglaries. I think that those were the most common offences we saw immediately after the hurricane, notwithstanding the other offences like wounding and domestic matters. After the hurricane which affected some places, people used that opportunity ‘to help themselves’ – if I might use that terminology – with things that did not belong to them. We saw a little spike in thefts and burglaries as we said.”

He said that acting on evidence of pilfering in damaged buildings, the police had arrested and prosecuted a number of persons in the Magistrate’s Court. “Just to this date [Tuesday, October 31], we arrested four persons for similar offences of theft,” he disclosed. “In some cases we recovered the stolen items which were returned to the owners. Other cases are pending the court’s decision.”
Asked specifically about looting, where it was reported that persons had broken into buildings which were not damaged by the hurricane and had stolen items, Mr. Forbes said: “Looting is not necessarily a term in our law but it is a term that is used when people operate in that environment – but yes, we saw an increase in theft. Equally, there was an increase in burglary in areas where there was no lighting and where premises were not occupied. If there are not people looking at those premises, we may see a further increase of breaking and stealing.”
He went on: “I want people to be conscious that even though they may have their shutters still on, it would be in their best interest to physically go to their premises, open them and check that everything is still in place. I don’t know how far ANGLEC is [in restoring electricity to all areas], but we anticipate that there are going to be some areas of darkness for a period of time.

“A number of villas have indicated that they will be opening between the latter part of this month, and the early part of November, so what we have in place is a tourism security plan. That entails collaborating with security personnel at the various hotels and villas that will be coming on stream soon and those that will come on stream in December and January …

“We met with various representatives from key hotels and villas and the Anguilla Hotel and Tourism Association. The agreement is that, working in collaboration, we will prepare a crime prevention briefing package – and as guests arrive the respective person at the hotel would brief the visitors on some of the do’s and don’ts, given the current situation with lighting. We want to create a level of awareness so that visitors can be very vigilant. As I mentioned, our patrol will continue and extend into those areas to give a sense of safety and reassurance to the general public, and equally to visitors. We know as a fact that a number of visitors are coming to Anguilla still – despite the current situation. We are bouncing back slowly but surely, and we are taking the necessary steps to manage crime and have it under control.”

The Acting Commissioner added that the police “will be collaborating with all entities to ensure that Anguilla remains relatively crime-free, and one of the safest Caribbean islands.”

By anguillian November 6, 2017 11:59


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