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PM Dickon Mitchell: RGPF numbers will increase

Prime Minister and Minister of National Security Dickon Mitchell

Prime Minister and Minister of National Security Dickon Mitchell has announced plans to remove police officers assigned to engage in security at the nation’s port and airport and to have them put back into regular police duties to help beef up the numbers engaged in direct policing within the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF).

Speaking to reporters at a press conference on Tuesday, the one year old Grenadian leader said that two entities that will be most affected by the policy are the Grenada Ports Authority (GPA) which has just over 30 police officers serving at a small outpost on the compound of the Pier, as well as the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA).

He stated that the policy of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration is that in those areas where police officers are being “outsourced to provide security” and where the entity can provide their security themselves “our approach will in fact be to have the police go back to policing.”

He said the thinking is that GPA should provide its own security outfit although there might be a need for what he referred to as “top level police supervision” on the port.

According to Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell, police officers need to return to policing given the shortages in numbers within RGPF.

He also said that the Immigration Department will also be affected as there are some matters that can be done by civilians which can then free up police officers to get more involved in the business of the security of the State.

The plan being looked at will also see greater use of civilians and less police officers in the annual Licensing and Inspection of vehicles.

Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell also told reporters that RGPF will be looking to recruit more persons to join its ranks to deal with a shortage of what he called “boots on the ground” to engage in greater patrolling in the country.

The 45-year old Grenadian leader announced that the island can expect to see greater use of CCTV cameras at several public hot spots to provide “coverage of our public spaces like the markets, main bus routes, bus shelters and places where people congregate so that we can at least have eyes on the place that will allow the police to react better.”

He also addressed the response of the Police Force to arrest the proliferation of firearms on the island.

He said that around this time of the year in 2022 the police were able to interdict 16 illegal firearms but the figure almost doubled and stood at 31 in 2023.

He reiterated that the Congress government is taking a zero tolerance towards firearms in the country but said this is not only a Grenada problem but is regional in scope because the firearms are coming into the area mainly from the United States.

PM Dickon Mitchell disclosed that regional leaders have been engaged in discussions with “our partners in the United States” to tackle the problem.

He spoke of meetings held with visiting US officials including members of the Congress to help curb the number of guns coming from up north and into the Caribbean.

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“We have from an advocacy level, from a security co-operation level, both from a bilateral perspective and from a regional level, we have spent extensive time, resources and dialogue with our partners in the United States both from the Executive level and from Congressmen and Women who have been in the Caribbean and been visiting Grenada, explaining to them that the U.S government needs to do more to ensure that guns do not leave their borders destined for Caribbean nations and we will continue to advocate, we will continue to work with them to make sure that that doesn’t happen.,” he said.

The Prime Minister alluded to some specific measures that Grenada is adopting in order to address the illegal importation of arms and ammunition into the country.

“We recognise … that beefing up our screening and security at our ports of entry particularly at the sea ports is going to be critical,” he said.

The Prime Minister announced that the Ports Authority “is taking steps to be able to get the necessary screening that can allow for the screening of barrels so that we can detect attempts at introducing illegal firearms into our communities.”

“..In recent times, we were blessed to have received a donation from the United States of America that will allow us to better patrol our ports and our coastline to continue the interdiction of illegal firearms,” he said.

The Prime Minister told reporters that the government intends to make it much more difficult for locals to obtain a licensed firearm as they will have to demonstrate “a real need for a licensed firearm” to be issued to them.

In addition, he said that discussions are taking place at the National Security level about offering a gun amnesty to try and limit the number of illegal firearms on the streets.

“…We have had some discussions on whether a gun amnesty would make sense, we have not resolved that issue – it is something that we are still considering in conjunction with the Royal Grenada Police Force,” he remarked.

As a direct policy, Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell said the NDC government is thinking of amending the Firearms act to provide for much stiffer penalties to be imposed on persons found in possession or in the trafficking of illegal firearms.

In the face of attempts by the main opposition New National Party (NNP) of former Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell to portray that crime is getting out of control on the island, the Congress leader provided statistics to show that criminal activities are not getting out of control.

He said that around this time in 2022, RGPF recorded 128 drug offences and for the corresponding period in 2023 the figure stood at 150 offences.

He said that for House-breaking and stealing in 2022, some 93 offences were reported but for the same period this year the number went down significantly to 54.

In the case of stealing alone, the number of cases recorded in 2022 was 897 but there was an increase this year to around 1060 while sexual crimes were also down from 202 in 2022 to 138 in 2023.

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