Leader of the Opposition Julian Fraser has reiterated his call for the police to carry guns, but he does not think the suggestion for business operators to more easily acquire licensed firearms would significantly help to curb the current spate of gun crimes in the British Virgin Islands (BVI).
“I was asked my opinion on arming business owners as a deterrent to robberies, and I don’t see the connection unless the store owners decide to post a sign on the outside of their business saying that they are armed. But this might just have the opposite effect by deterring the customers they rely upon to survive,” he reasoned.
“But law enforcement has a duty beyond policing – which includes Customs and Immigration. It has to do with border protection because, last time I checked, the BVI don’t produce anything including guns. So, whose fault is it that the guns are here! When we figure that out, half our problems with gun crimes are solved. It’s not rocket science.
None of this is easy, but all of it is achievable. We just have to develop the courage to do what we all know is necessary, but are reluctant to do.”
Fraser said the police are also in need of other resources.
“The men and women charged with the responsibility to keep us safe will never be able to control crime until they are in a position to patrol our streets and neighborhoods adequately. And the three most important things they are going to need are personnel, patrol cars, and firearms. To get these things, the police must have two things: money, and a change in management’s mentality towards firearms.”
When Fraser previously called for the police to be armed with guns, Commissioner of Police Michael Matthews disagreed.
The commissioner, in July last year, explained his position: “Carrying a firearm does not make a police officer any safer; it doesn’t necessarily make the public any safer. The only time a firearm is going to be of value to you is if you can draw it first or point it first before an offender armed can point it at you. After that, if the offender already got a gun in their hand, then it matters not if you (the police) got a gun.”
Opposition leader Fraser, in the meantime, suggested that the government is not properly funding the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF) because it does not control the law-enforcement organization.
The governor has oversight responsibility for the RVIPF, which is funded by the BVI government.
Over the years, the police have been complaining about not having adequate resources to do their job.
Fraser now reasons: “As long as the police is under the governor, the elected government will never feel the necessary pressures to properly fund the police, because the issue of crime is always the responsibility of those in charge. There is no reason the governor can’t give responsibility for the police to the premier. It happens in Bermuda, and it has been working for decades. The mechanism for this exists constitutionally. We need to make our elected government responsible for keeping us safe, and if they don’t, hold them accountable.”
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