When it comes to communicating about crime, no one can match the repertoire of artful brush-offs like our police. We have all become familiar with the routine. Move along. Nothing to see here. Crime has gone down and all is great in paradise.
Weekly blew the lid off a couple of weeks ago on, what we nicknamed, “the Rolex gang” – a highly skilful gang – if only they could use their skill in the right way – which has been terrorising parts of the island. Nothing stops them.
No alarm system, video surveillance, watchman or security company. They are fast, operate stealthily and leave zero trace behind. And nothing resists them. No safe is safe.
They have walked away with millions in jewellery, luxury watches, cash and alcohol. When they hit an area, they do not stop at one single house. They move from one place to another and leave nothing valuable behind.
We had said that our police are outwitted. In fact, they are clueless. The gang, which has been operating since last December, has spared neither offi ces, houses nor warehouses. Yet, the police have not issued a single statement warning people to be on their guard. Worse still: The gang walked away with fi rearms – something which should have pushed the police to organise themselves better, coordinate and multiply their efforts. We saw no roadblocks, no patrol and no plans of action. Let the citizens deal with their worries by themselves.
This week, we have seen a new type of crime which would have made us laugh under other circumstances. From stealing manhole covers, cables, pipes, scrap metal, building materials of all manner and type, etc, thieves are now stealing hundreds of live chickens from poultry farms and – hold your breath – buildings and parts thereof! The latest of these occurrences is the theft of several stone walls from historic buildings on an estate in Poudre d’Or. The inhabitants of the area woke up to fi nd that the centuries-old walls - which had been there the day before – had disappeared. The crooks demolished them stone by stone and must have sold them by the lorry load.
I couldn’t help thinking of my days in academia when a student came and told me that his house had been “stolen”.
I reassured the student that no one can steal his house; they can only burgle it. How wrong I was!
Let me add the situation in our hotels which the prime minister referred to in parliament last week. In top hotels, with tight security, tourists regularly experience the nightmare of having to spend the holiday, they worked so hard for, giving police statements and anguishing over their lost valuables.
We have reached a situation where we no longer feel safe anywhere for ourselves or our possessions. If organized gangs and other miscreants are attacking houses, offi ces, street lights, drains, poultry farms and now walls, where do we hide from them? Even in the streets we are targets for snatch-and-run thieves all over the island.
The misinformation – or total blackout – of the (un)concerned authorities does nothing to improve the situation. By reassuring citizens that the situation is under control – when it obviously is not – they are creating a sense of false security and causing people to lower their guard. That’s exactly the situation thieves thrive on.
Security boils down to one thing: if things are being stolen, someone is buying them. For as long as the police do not tackle those who encourage crime, they will not make a dent in curbing it.