In the face of rising gun violence on the island, Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell has announced that the 14-month old National Democratic Congress (NDC) government have agreed on a number of measures to address the issue.
Speaking at a press conference Tuesday, the Grenadian leader said that legislation will soon be taken to Parliament to toughen the penalties by making amendments to the Firearms act as he recognised the concerns of citizens over the state of gun-related homicides in Grenada in recent months.
According to the Prime Minister, crime in Grenada has been trending downwards except for a few cases of persons being killed by the gun.
“In total, we have 18 homicides for the year, many of them gun-related, and as I’ve said repeatedly firearms are lethal, they are meant to kill and I dear say perhaps in some of these instances were firearms not involved some of the victims may very well have survived whatever altercation or issue they had with the perpetrator of the crime,” he said.
Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell stressed that the matter is not being taken lightly by Congress and the government intends to respond quickly to the recent surge of gun-related crime.
“The Cabinet intends to pilot legislation in Parliament to amend the Firearms act to introduce far more significant penalties for persons found in unlawful possession of firearms. We certainly intend to pilot the necessary legislation before we go on the Christmas break to be read in Parliament so that it can be enacted into law to signal our view that the possession of unlawful firearms, the use of unlawful firearms, the trading in unlawful firearms, will not be something that we will tolerate,” he said.
The Prime Minister also made reference to the work to be done by the newly appointed National Security Advisory Council (NSAC).
“We intend to have the council constituted and the first order of business that it will be mandated to do is to carry out a series of national consultations which we hope to commence in October throughout the tri-island state with all of our stakeholders, looking at this question of national security, looking at how we can begin to implement the necessary policy and programs that treats with ensuring that as a nation we do not view violence as a means of conducting ourselves or as a means of resolving our disputes or conflict,” he said.
According to PM Dickon Mitchell, the intention is to back it up by contracting with specialists in the area of behavioural science who can address young persons, “particularly our young men on how to mediate differences and disputes amongst ourselves, family members, and our villages.”
He noted that one thing which is obvious about the current acts of violence is that often the perpetrators and the victims know each other, either are related or are from the same villages or neighbouring villages.
Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell announced plans to put together a project team to advise the government on the implementation of CCTV cameras throughout significant public areas and hot spots in Grenada.
He said the government is already in possession of the CCTV cameras and the intention is to do the necessary feasibility studies to set up as many of the devices in major urban centers and public gathering places.
He disclosed that some of the locations will include where the public meet like the Market Square, main bus terminals, and the areas that are heavily trafficked by the public, as well as other areas considered to be vulnerable, particularly in some coastal villages and areas which are believed to be vulnerable to firearm trafficking.
The Grenadian leader also signaled the government’s intention from the next Budget cycle “to invest more in ensuring that our Coastguard is outfitted with the necessary resources to beef up its capacity to patrol our coastal areas.”
“We certainly recognise that we do not produce firearms in Grenada and they are clearly coming into Grenada from outside of Grenada,” he said.
The Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell also said that the island will continue to work with its partners in the region and North America to address how the flow of firearms into Grenada and the region can be stopped.
“Once they (the guns) get into the region then we too are vulnerable to the risk of it getting into Grenada and in many instances, the firearms trade is tied within narcotics and it is also a significant challenge for us,” he said.