Caribbean looks overseas to combat crime

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Bharrat Jagdeo, Guyana’s president, is clear about the job description for the latest recruit to the Caribbean country’s constabulary.

“Bernard Kerik, former New York City police commissioner, will overhaul Guyana’s police force to stem increasing crime.”

Mr Kerik is joining other recent high-profile foreign additions to police forces in the region.

In Trinidad and Tobago, two Scotland Yard men, Ian Delbarre, a former commander, and Dave King, a former chief inspector, have been appointed as assistant commissioners.

Inevitably, as the countries of the region co-operate to deal with rising crime, Mr Kerik will be exchanging notes with Mr Delbarre and Mr King, and with other former British officers such as Mark Shields, deputy commissioner, and Les Green and Paul Robinson, assistant commissioners in the Jamaican police.

Caribbean governments reject claims that the search for foreign help indicates a lack of confidence in their police forces. They say it is an acceptance of the need for help in dealing with the changing nature of international crime.

“The callous destruction of human life, and the consequent suffering, risks shredding us of our decency, civility, humanity and intrinsic Caribbean spirit,” says Edwin Carrington, secretary-general of the Caribbean Community, an economic union.

“Such acts of violence have no place in the democratic culture of the region and undermine the political, economic and social stability of the region,” he adds.

The region is a part of the highway for the narcotics trade running from South America to North America and Europe. Cartels and their proxies in the region guard their turf jealously and violently as well as fighting for market share.

Crimes of passion and domestic disputes compound the situation in Jamaica, where over 1,600 people were murdered last year, 250 more than the previous year.

Just under 400 people were murdered last year in Trinidad and Tobago – a third more than a year earlier. The crime problem has been worsened by increased kidnappings for ransom over the past two years.

In the Dominican Republic, the army has been called out to help the police fight mounting crime. Franklin Almeyda, the police minister, says the government is increasing the size of the constabulary by almost a half with the recruitment of 15,000 officers.

Before Mr Kerik’s recruitment drive, Guyana had turned to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The government is increasingly worried since the theft of 30 guns from an army depot earlier this year, and the subsequent assassination of the country’s agriculture minister.

Denzil Douglas, prime minister of St Kitts-Nevis, has said that he has sought help from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

“The RCMP will identify the areas for improvement and also indicate to us where we need to expand to become more efficient in fighting crime,” Mr Douglas said. “Based on that we will make a decision as to whether to enlist foreign police officers.”

The terms under which foreign officers have been recruited have caused disquiet in some countries.

Leon Rose, an assistant commissioner in Jamaica, has said that the contracts of the foreign officers should be reviewed because they were not similar to those offered to their local counterparts. “The present arrangement is iniquitous and we find this unacceptable.”

Jamaican government officials say a comparison is misleading as the UK government pays a significant part of the British officers’ salaries and benefits.

Mr Carrington’s fears about the impact of increasing and violent crime on the Caribbean are shared by the region’s economic planners.

They consider each high profile incident to be a possible deterrent to tourists who bring $20bn into the Caribbean per year. The sector accounts for 15 per cent of the region’s economy and provides one out of every five jobs.

In 2004 Mr Kerik was nominated by President George W. Bush as head of Homeland Security, but withdrew after suggestions that he may not have paid the required taxes for a housekeeper who may have been an illegal immigrant.

“That is a matter for Mr Kerik and the US authorities,” says one government official. “We have an immediate and dangerously escalating crime problem.

“Mr Kerik’s expertise will help, and that is our primary interest.”

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