30 January, 2009

Cops & Robbers

Is our police force up to scratch for the task? Things in Anguilla on the criminal front are bad so far as our tourist industry is concerned. Really bad. From what I am hearing, they are about to get worse. And, I am not sure our police are up to it. I am not saying they are keystone cops. But, some of our citizens are mad as hell at them.

And, let me not be misunderstood. There are some very good police officers. Unfortunately, they are overwhelmed by the numbers of lazy officers among them, and the total lack of leadership at the top.

I am sure we have all heard by now about the two and a half hour conference the police had with members of the much victimised restauranteurs last Wednesday. The meeting was chaired by Police Commissioner Keithley Benjamin. He answered all the questions. Supts Rudolph Proctor and Illidge Richardson had little or nothing to say. I'm told it was all classic Keithley. The body language signified everything. Keithley is hard to understand at the best of times, as he speaks in a muffled, tight-arsed style. On this occasion, he did nothing to make it easy for his audience to understand, far less take confidence in, his mind-numbing platitudes and assurances. For the entire duration of the meeting, he spoke with his elbows resting on the table, and his hands clasped together – in front of his mouth. He generally avoided eye-contact, making sure he was speaking only to his notes on the table in front of him. Several people had to ask him to speak up, all to no purpose. Even with straining to hear, few could understand what he was talking about.

Someone tells me that this type of body language indicates one of two things. Either you lack confidence in the truth of what you are saying. Or, it indicates the speaker's irritation at having been ordered to a meeting that he did not wish to attend.

Keithley referred to the three successful violent restaurant robberies, and the one attempted but repulsed, that have taken place in recent weeks. He suspects there may be a total of eight different individuals involved.

The Minister of Tourism, the Hon Victor Banks', main contribution was to urge restauranteurs not to arm themselves and act like Anguilla is the Wild West. Good advice, if the police can come up with a strategy to protect our restaurants. They are the only businesses likely to be carrying home large wads of cash late in the evening, and must be prime targets for villains of the night. If anyone in Anguilla deserves to be armed for protection, it is restaurant managers carrying home cash late at night. If it was me carrying the cash, I would not exit my restaurant late at night except with a gun in my hand.

A cellphone was found in the vicinity of the Barrel Stay, and one person is in custody over this incident. What he did not say is that it was civilians who discovered the evidence. They had to practically push the police, who responded to the report, out onto the beach to examine the foot prints in the sand.

Both Barrel Stay and Veya victims complained at the meeting that no written statements had been taken from them. They do not know what is happening with the investigation. Police took several hours in each case to examine the crime scene.

Pump House's Gabi was so upset at something that she walked out of the meeting. I must ask her what she was so mad about. I suspect that, as usual, no one in the police force has been in touch with her since the day of the robbery, and she feels frustrated and betrayed.

One classic Keithleyism was his, You do not like us, and you don’t believe in us, but we are still serving you! All the time looking down at his notes, and refusing to look anyone in the face. Well, thanks, I say.

Another, when Keithley was asked if a murder had to happen before things change, was his response, “Well, then, we shall have to find the perpetrator. I understand this pearl of wisdom had the room stunned for a moment. One or two got up and left. They all should have left the room.

Mango Dave was not reported to me to be present. Maybe he was still in the States. It would be useful to learn what his experience with our Royal police has been like since his robbery.

No update on the gun-toting robbers at Caprice Restaurant. But, no update is ever given to victims. That was one of the problems highlighted.

And, now the Koal Keel has been broken into and burglarized. The security guard is reported to have slept through the whole incident. But this is probably an exaggeration.

The one conclusion that everyone came away from the meeting with was that the police have no plan for dealing with the recent upsurge in gun-carrying, machete-wielding thugs. Victim complaints are all to the same effect. Police response time to crimes in progress stinks. Telephone calls are never returned. Written statements are seldom taken. Crime scene evidence is looked for days after the incident, when the crime scene has long been messed up.

All in all, the séance was standard bull-s+++. “Just permit the restaurant owners to let off steam, and then we can go back to business as usual”, must have been the plan.

Or, so I'm told. Maybe some of the participants can correct this impression if I have been misled.

Isn't there a Brinks equivalent who can visit all the restaurants in the island before closing up time with an armed guard and pick up bags of cash and deliver the bags to the banks for a fee? It would only take two vehicles to go out every night. One for the west and one for the east. Zaras is in a lonely spot, and I am sure Shamash's comfort level would increase. I know that most tourists do not bring cash to the island. Most of them use credit cards or travellers' cheques. But, the bandits do not seem to realise this.

As for the suggestion raised at the meeting that the security guards be armed, I recall during Hurricane Omar a sailboat washed up at Sherricks Bay at 3:00 in the morning. The owner sought refuge at one of the damaged villas at Cove Castles until it died down. He returned to his boat at 6:30 and found one of the security guards and another person at his boat “checking to make sure no one was hurt”. Later, examining the contents, he found his camera, video cam, binoculars, radio and gps missing. He confronted the guard, who got really indignant and walked away. He called the police and filed a report of the theft. You know the rest of the story. End of story.

Good luck with arming security guards!


  1. All Anguillians who have a clean record should be allowed to arm themselves if they wish to, for self defence purposes, also restaurant owners, Anguillians or not should be allowed the same. It doesn;t have to be a firearm it can be a Taser or similar. As you say forget armed security people, we have police with access to the armoury and that doesn't stop the criminals.
    Remember, criminals will always have weapons and whilst we don't they will cotinue to rob using violence as there is no deterrant.
    The police can not be expected to protect us as they are called after the crime. We must do our best to protect ourselves until the police arrive on the scene.
    I would suggest that a gun shop and shooting range on Anguilla could be a very viable business opportunity.
    Also it seems as though a lot of people have lost confidence in the police, i suppose the beating of Dwayne ( was this a crime ) and no police being held accountable yet as far as i know doesn't help, if you remember this happened whilst the indian march was going on and Dwayne was also told he would be deported i believe. This is only one of many other examples.
    I fully support the ownership of guns if so desired, this may reduce these horrible crimes.

  2. What sticks out like an SOS flashing is the fact that all of the restaurants hit so far have not been owned by locals. Seems like the hoodlums don't want to hurt "their own."

  3. Local restaurants have been robbed. Ask Dale at Tasty's or Alan at Koal Keel.

  4. So, what *are* the gun-laws on Anguilla anyway? Are they actually written down somewhere? Are they the standard British disarm-and-die statutes, or is there no law at all except what the police and customs make up on the spot? Are gun permits only permitted for high government officials, renewable at their, um, leisure?

    More guns, less crime and all that. Crime is down dramatically in shall-issue concealed-carry states in the US, especially those with stand-your-ground or home-is-your-castle provisions.

    Paradoxically, of course, an armed society is a *polite* society. One of the reasons everyone was so polite, back in the day, was that *anyone* could be armed. Rattlesnakes bump chests when they fight for territory and mates. Rabbits eviscerate each other with their back feet. Learned helplessness is never a good survival strategy. Depending on the kindness of strangers is not always a good idea, Stella.

    When it first looked like I was moving here, I jokingly talked, to the horror of all my Anguillian friends, of leasing some land in the bush and starting a bar and shooting club as sort of an "anti-beach-bar", a "bush bar". A no-blenders cocktail bar with an outdoor bandstand and a gun range. What could *possibly* go wrong? :-).

    Now, given Anguilla's armed home invasions and business robberies, it's really not so funny anymore. People on Anguilla are now talking about gun stores and shooting ranges with a straight face.

    So, I hear there's some freshly cleared land soon to be available near Rendezvous Bay. Very pretty. Million dollar views. Well landscaped. It even has some, heh, bunkers. And a cocktail bar. What could possibly go wrong? :-)

  5. Arming the locals IMO is not a good idea as this will cause more harm than good. I do like the Brinks concept though . CCTV can be effective both in business establishments and traffic control and are often used in locations where there is weak " feet on the street " police ....there are established monitoring systems that can support CCTV that provide response as well as time sequence intelligence. However , above all these must be supported by a stong hand at the top as well as severe capital punishment.

  6. Criminals are not stupid and they listen to the news too. Ever since a few years ago the Police announce that they will not be givign out any more permits for guns, crime has shyrocketted. Every business owner in AXA should be allowed to carry a gun . The Police alone cannot defend the community anymore. And it's time for right mineded Anguillians to defend themselves. I am sure many of these crime are carried out by locals. But we should also be aware that anyone can come over for a day and carry out their henious acts and then leave the islands when they want.

    People in AXA need to be more proactive. Make it easier for Business owners and people with property to have access to guns if they want. The Police can help by making it mandatory that they go through 5 hours of safety and weapons training before they get the permit.

  7. Adding more guns to Anguilla might be a great idea. But only if they bring in General Laney (refer to link below) to teach the classes.


  8. No thanks, Anguilla is enough of a wild west show already, without more guns. The police must simply do their job. True, they cannot prevent crimes that have already taken place, but if they improved their response time, and had better success rates at actually catching criminals (including doing a professional job anaylising crime scenes and taking witness statements) that would act as a deterrent and criminals may think twice. Does anyone know what the percentage of crimes that get solved actually is?

    It is time the police hierarchy were held accountable for the results their services produce. If they don't deliver the goods, they should be fired and replaced. This has nothing to do with anyone "hating" the police. It is simply how government (all of it) should work, especially a service as important as the police.

  9. Who is in charge of the police?
    Who makes our laws?
    I really don't know, but if it is the British then beware, we may become as unlawful as the UK and we don't want that. With all the cctvs in the UK the british still have an appauling crime rate, especially, murders, stabbings etc. Keep British laws out of Anguilla. Let Anguillians make the gun laws for Anguilla, no one else.

  10. Do not blame the police as they only know of a crime after we report it. As the citizen is in the firing line so as to speak we must be allowed to use our own guns, tasers, to defend ourselves if we wish to.
    If it is true that the police stopped issuing firearms licences to Anguillians then this is shameful and should be investigated and whoever gave this instruction should be asked to leave Anguilla as this has not served to help to protect us in any way. Does anyone know who this was? Could an investigation be done with transparency or will it be hidden never to surface again.
    Are the police a law unto themselves? by stopping good Anguillians from having firearms.


    Several restaurant robberies have taken place in Anguilla in recent times. It is believed to be the same two persons. Robbers during the selection process consider two factors when choosing a location to rob-1. lots of available cash 2. the ability to get away clean.

    Examples of possible deterrents- the number of employees on duty, high customer traffic, video surveillance cameras, silent alarm systems, bad escape routes and the presence of security guards or the police.

  12. It is believed to be the same two persons? Why did Commissioner Benjamin tell the restauranteurs that "there may be a total of eight different individuals involved"?

    Why is this man in charge of our police, instead of working for Cable & Wireless or selling vapour-condos at Long Bay?

  13. Speaking of Cable & Wireless, these prolific issuers of self-congradulatory press releases closed their Anguilla call centre yesterday, laid off 33 people and didn't say a word to the public.

    For this and other courageous acts, Sutcliffe Hodge got promoted to Vice President. I nominate Cliffie for the Michael Misick "Taking Care of Me First" Award.

  14. What is the penalty for carrying an unlicensed firearm? It seems that if you got caught, you could just hire a lawyer, plead guilty, pretend to be remorseful, and visit a pretty and gullible probation officer once a week for a while, or better yet volunteer for community service and not bother to show up. A couple thousand dollars for a lawyer is a small price to pay for your life.

    I would rather be tried by 12 than carried by 6.

  15. I was at a meeting with these same three "esteemed" officers during the fearful raping spree which was occurring two years ago. It was a meeting rife with the same mumbled platitudes and myopic ineptitude. I finally posed the question, "If someone breaks into my house and I can call 911, how quickly will a police officer respond to the emergency?" "Well," came the nearly unintelligible answer, "we don't know where on the island the patrol car will be. It might be twenty minutes or more before the police can get there so you should call your neighbors." It gets worse. Our house is five minutes from the police station and all three of these officers were well aware of that. This bumbling reply was muttered from the head of a police force that has more officers per capita than New York City. I can't speak for anyone else, but this did the opposite than engender my confidence in these peoples' ability to protect the populace.

  16. Dear Mr. Mitchell:

    Perhaps if we were to resist the urge to be emotional in our reactions to these crimes, and offer to assist the Police in every way we can; such as, for example applying to be made Special Constables, being vigilant in our and other neighbourhoods, and the like, it would greatly assist the performance of the investigative Branch of the police Force in its duties.

    Whether per capita we have more Police officers than New York City, a postulate I seriously doubt, is not the point; the point is that there is an upsurge in Crime and it is NOT the fault of the Police.

    I have worked in opposition to the Royal Anguilla Police force for the past 21 plus years, and I have seen them improve tremendously over the years to the point where they are today a fine Police Force.

    They cannot, on their own, solve Crime. They need the assistance of the Public; when any citizen knows or suspects something, they have an obligation to report it to the Police. It is commonly said that if one does so the Police do nothing, and thereby endanger the citizen. That is not the reality I have experienced.

    I also worked with the Police in the Prosecution of a Murder case. I can tell you that I was extremely impressed by the work they had done, and the evidence they had gathered within the first 24 hours of the discovery of the crime. That particular case was unresolved with a hung Jury, but I can tell you that the basis upon which any Juror would have had any doubt had nothing to do with the work of The Royal Anguilla Police Force. Rather, ALL of it sprung from the work done by overseas Police Officers brought in by the Government in response to Public pressure, (much like this which we are now experiencing,) and the unnecessary Forensic Reports demanded by them from UK Labs, notwithstanding that more than adequate Reports were in fact done and at hand from the Forensic Labs in Jamaica.

    That intervention, in my professional opinion, very nearly torpedoed the entire case!

    I have nothing but praise and admiration for the work done on that case by the RAPF,its Leadership and Senior Ranks and the then Attorney - General, Mr. Ronald Scipio, and his able of Laywers, Miss Vernette Richardson and Miss Dawn Richardson, both of whom did yeoman service in that case. I continue to admire them as able Lawyers both. All this from someone who will, in a matter of days, join vigourous battle with those same persons in the High Court in the upcoming Criminal Assizes.

    Yes, they are human, and, as such, like you and me they make mistakes, and they are not always right, again, like you and me! But it would be grossly unfair to condemn them in toto for any such mistakes.

    We need to support our police and work with them to resolve the present mess.

    All that being said, where are the Government with solutions? It is NOT a solution to increase Penalties; it is not a solution to impose Life Sentences for any and every offence. The Social and Economic fabric of the Society needs to be minutely examined and corrective measures implemented.

    This sadly, is not the methodology the Government employs; Increasing Penalties is the one which appeals to them, even with unintended consequences - as happened in the case where the Minister had to pay the whopping Fines for forgetting to renew his Licence. It was never the intention of Government that a person who was licensed but failed to pay the Tax would be subject to the draconion fines they legislated. Prior to that case they couldnt waste the time to examine the consequences of their Act, ( pun intended). It is only when the manure hit the fan that it dawned on them that the rapidly passed Amendment had a wider ambit than intended. They still have not addressed that.

    In fact, this is not an indictment of the Government so much as it is the reality of the Legislature in Anguilla over the past 20 plus years. There is never any true debate of the issues and the Bills presented for passage to address these issues. The majority always steamrolls the Bills through, and "Debate" is most often than not Political speeches. That is our Legislative Culture, and that needs to be changed so that the work of the People is properly done, and done properly.

    So, rather than attack our Police, let us engage our Government in a civilized manner, to have them study issues we face in our Society, the Laws they enact to deal with these issues, and their intended and unintended impact on the People.

    Unfortunately, there will be those of us who would scream that the Laws are good as they now are - until that person, their son or daughter, brother, sister, mother, father or other relative is stung by the unintended consequences. This I have seen dozens of times over the years. We dont care until the doom is at our doorstep.

    Bottom line is that, in order for the recent Crimes to be solved by the Police, the Police require the assistance of every person on the Island, as well as the full plentitude of Governmental assets.

    The Commissioner of Police's speaking style is of no consequence. Ask Mango Dave about his experience with the Police when he had the problem with the guests, and what he observed at Meads Bay.

    We must not be too eager to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

    Support Your Police!

    Finally, I shall check the Register of Births tommorrow as I am facinated by the very large number of people in Anguilla, ( presumably), named "Anonmyous".

  17. A good part of the problem is the total lack of transparency (to copy a current phrase) here in Anguilla. Who really knows the rules? Who really knows the numbers & types of crimes being committed. Who really knows what the actual results of investigations are? If there were to be regular reporting and publishing of these statistics, the politicos in charge of the police would make sure that there would be results. At least, come election time. Unfortunately, word of mouth musings, rumours, badmouthing, etc., have the opposite effect.

  18. Hmmmm if Anguillians arm themselfs Anguilla will become the OK Corral and that will be the end of tourism

  19. I hear rumors of physical abuse on Anguilla. I hear stories of men with multiple children each by different mothers. Poisoning a neighbor's dog is not unusual. From what I've seen Anguillians are emotional about their boats, goats and votes. If guns are more easily attainable by abusive husbands, rebuffed mothers and gangs, there will be even more news about violent crime as well as news about young children getting a hold of a gun and accidently shooting themselves or another. My vote doesn't count, but as a tourist I fear for the local populace as well as for the visitors if guns are allowed.

  20. "Ask Mango Dave about his experience with the Police when he had the problem with the guests, and what he observed at Meads Bay."

    Since it's literally impossible for us to ask Mango Dave (as suggested by Mr. Astaphan) perhaps Mr. Astaphan can enlighten us all about what happpened.

    Without details I can only assume that Mango Dave was unhappy with the police response.

  21. Dear Cathy:

    Mr. Mango Dave is presently sitting with me as I write this comment. He has authorized me to state the following:

    Firstly, In November 2008, Mango Dave had some guests who had a dinner party for 60 persons at Mango's. They refused to pay their tab.

    Dave called the Police who responded efficiently to his call.

    The guests were contacted by the Police and agreed to make payment.
    They failed to do so and the next day the Police along with Dave went to Meads Bay to meet them upon their return from a boat ride.

    When approached by the Police, the guests attacked the Police. Rather than retaliate, the Police Officers, to their Credit, retreated and called in reinforcements. The guests then left the scene and returned to their hotel where the Police apprehended them peacefully.

    Mango Dave was so impressed with the conduct of the Members of The Royal Anguilla Police Force, particularly Det. Sgt. Randolph Yearwood, that he instructed me to write a letter of commendation to the Commissioner of Police.

    Secondly, when Dave had his unfortunate experience at his home the Police responded immeadiately and Dave was satisfied by the manner in which they performed their duties.

    The Police have since this event continuously communicated with Mango Dave who feels now quite secure.

    I hope I have provided the information which you seek.

  22. We are quick to bash the RAPF but let something happen to us immediately after we submit our post to forums such as this, and the police are the first we call. RAPF keep keeping on, I do appreciate the work you do.

  23. Mr. Astaphan, I can only wonder why your client is getting favourable treatment from the police and most of the rest of us believe we're being treated like shit.

  24. Mr. Astaphan,

    Thank you for supplying the details.

  25. " Anonymous"( this very popular family name) complains about the Police performance of their duties and, when a 'real life" person like Mango Dave has actual experiences involving the Police, which experiences are normal and are as to be expected, Dave is accused of "getting favourable treatment".

    All he got was the usual service the Police provide. Nothing unusual, but, like all Police work, always special.

    You state that "..most the rest of ...believe we are treated like..." That is just a belief, and, perhaps you should state the facts upon which you base your statement that the Police treated you "like.....".

    Could it be that " most of us..." treat the Police " like Shit" as you put it, and therefore we interpret the Police treatment of us in the light of the manner in which we treat them?

    Lay off the Police and help them do their jobs. Constructive criticism is ...well,..constructive. Destructive criticism, which we far too often engage in, DESTROYS us ALL !

    We are one Community. We must be constructive. We will all be better for it. The Police included.

  26. Mr. Astaphan presents the matter quite well. If you expect the worst, you generally get it. I truly believe that police as a whole are really trying. I know good police officers that take pride in their work and strive to serve their community. There may well be "bad apples"--as the saying goes, there is at least one in every barrel--but all should not be condemned. Too often, people do not cooperate with the police in providing information to help them, for whatever reason. Mostly, I think it is because of "not wanting to get involved." How does a situation get better if all "do not get involved?"

  27. While it's true everyone (islanders and tourists alike) should remain positive about the police department we can't forget that Mango Dave is only one of hundreds of islanders and tourists who have had dealings with the police over the years. It would be wonderful if everyone had a positive interaction with the police, but unfortunately for every positive story there is a negative one. Trust takes time. The police need to prove themselves.

  28. So much for the "Wild West": http://www.examiner.com/x-2581-St-Louis-Gun-Rights-Examiner~y2009m2d17-Time-for-incorporation-of-the-Second-Amendment

    Again, more guns, less crime.

    Heck, fewer *laws*, less corruption!

    "If they could just pass a few more laws, we could all be criminals!" -- Vinnie Moscaritolo

  29. Good news travels fast and bad news even faster. Anguilla will not have to worry about tourists choosing this island to vacation with their family and friends once the crime picture here spreads to other parts of the world. Remember St Croix! Nothing affects tourism more than a bad crime reputation. Anguilla is not lost yet but very close to being a place tourists used to go to. Anguilla, get your act together before it's too late.


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