The Police data show that most categories of violent and property crimes decreased in 2019. For example, murders decreased by over 40%, robberies by 30% and woundings by over 50%. The brave and hardworking staff of the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force – from Commissioner to Constable – must be commended for their commitment to making Saint Vincent and the Grenadines safer and more peaceful.
But citizen security is not measured simply by the peaks and valleys of annual statistics, subject as they are to factors as diverse as the willingness to report crimes, the weather, or the skill of medical practitioners. Indeed, a lifesaving surgeon can sometimes reduce the murder rate even as violence increases.
As such, in addition to the quantitative data, citizen security also rests on more subjective determinations, like how safe people feel walking the streets at night, how confident they are in the ability of authorities to solve crimes, or how tightly the police are interwoven into the fabric of village and community life.
Budget 2020 intensifies our continuing battle against criminality, and seeks to improve both the objective and subjective measures of citizen security across Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
In 2019, the Government put more boots on the ground, with over 120 new personnel added to the Police, Coast Guard and Fire departments. Because of those additions, there are now over 1000 Police officers, 100 members of the Coast Guard and 100 fire fighters in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. This year, Budget 2020 augments those boots on the ground with eyes in the sky – in the form of 200 Closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras. These CCTV cameras will add video surveillance to the citizen security toolbox, and enhance the ability of the Police to solve, deter and respond to crimes. As promised in the 2019 budget, the CCTV installation began last year with the construction of a surveillance command centre in Questelles and the rollout of cameras in Kingstown. Eighty cameras will go live in late February, with additional installations on the Leeward and Windward coasts continuing up to mid April. We are grateful to the Government and people of Taiwan for this important project, and for the training that Vincentians have received in camera installation and repair, video surveillance analysis and drone operation.
With the recent start of the 2020 law term, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines welcomed additional judicial resources, in the form of a new criminal court judge and a new criminal courtroom. We expect that this new judge will help to reduce the backlog of criminal cases, and expedite the delivery of justice to the benefit of the victim, the accused and the wider society. An addition will also be made to the Magistracy.
In anticipation of the increased caseload triggered by an additional judge, Budget 2020 adds five new positions to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, including that of Assistant DPP, Crown Counsel and Case Manager. An additional $359,000 is also budgeted to retrofit and enhance the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and her staff.
No government in the history of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has spent more money on the construction of new and improved accommodations for our police and security services. The reinvigorated thrust to refurbish and upgrade public facilities – which began in 2019 – is extended to police stations this year.
Budget 2020 allocates $1.3m to upgrade electrical, plumbing and structural works at 17 Police Stations and three other security facilities across Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The Coast Guard Base at Calliaqua, which received upgrades to the female dormitories last year, is budgeted $400,000 worth of renovations in 2020.