Violent crime fears grow in East End
Business and tourism representatives in St George’s are worried about the impact on visitors after a spate of violent incidents.
A string of crimes in the East End this month — including a man being attacked while using an ATM last Friday — have prompted more questions about the police presence in the Olde Towne.
Isabelle Ramsay-Brackstone, from the Bermuda Perfumery, said recent events highlighted calls by politicians and the public for more protection.
“We’ve been screaming for the return of an active police station in St George’s,” she said.
Ms Ramsay-Brackstone said that as well as a police station, she wanted to see more police engagement and interaction with the community.
“It’s not just about a guy behind a desk,” she said. “We are a community of people who work and live here, and we need to have that relationship with police officers who walk around, who know us, and understand our issues.”
Since the start of April, there have been several incidents in the parish. The latest happened on Friday afternoon when a man was attacked by another man while using the cash machine in Water Street at about 1pm. Other men reportedly joined in the attack before someone intervened.
Last week, two men were assaulted during a burglary at a St George’s guest property. There has been a series of attacks on taxi drivers in April, with two robberies and an attempted robbery. Two men were injured as a result.
There have been no arrests reported in connection with any of the incidents.
Danny Gogoi, manager of The White Horse Pub and Restaurant on Kings Square, said that the incident had a detrimental effect.
“It’s obviously not good for the town, or the image, or tourism.”
The closure of the police station has also had an impact within the parish.
“The response time is perhaps not the best,” he said of the time it took for officers to attend calls.
“In the restaurant, if we have an incident, if we have to call someone, chances are it’s going to take a little while for someone to respond — and the situation might have gotten out of hand by then.”
Mr Gogoi said he had discussed concerns about these types of incidents with other business owners, but that there had never been a forum where business figureheads sat down to address the issue in detail.
He said not much was needed for incidents to damage the reputation of St George’s — and Bermuda — as a safe destination for visitors. “Bad news travels fast.”
Phillip Anderson, manager of the Visitor Information Centre, said that while he did not feel the town necessarily needed its own police station, he believed a stronger law enforcement presence was warranted.
“I think what we have got to have is more boots on the ground,” he said. “We need community police to deal with prevention, not trying to fix something that’s already been done.”
Promised upgrades and expansion to St George’s CCTV cameras must also happen, he said.
Mr Anderson described the recent incidents as disturbing and concerning but was not worried about visitors being dissuaded from St George’s. “This could happen in any parish,” he said.
Police said: “Inquiries regarding recent reported incidents in St George’s continue, with detectives following all leads — including the possibility that some of the offences may be linked.
“These matters are taken seriously by the Bermuda Police Service and we urge members of the public with information to contact the Criminal Investigations Department on 247-1744.”
Responding in a statement today, Senator Renee Ming, Shadow Minister of Municipalities, said Friday’s incident represented a “frightening escalation of lawlessness”.
The recent crimes, she said, are a “clear sign” that the current approach to law enforcement is not working, and that “criminals are getting bolder”.
Ms Ming pointed to a constituent who she said had to call the Somerset station after being unable to reach anyone at the Southside station, only to then be transferred back to Southside, where the call ultimately went unanswered.
The non-emergency call, she said, was to report suspicious activity in the East End.
“This is unacceptable and is symbolic of the neglect of St George’s,” she said.
The senator called for “visible, regular and consistent” police foot patrols, and the full implementation of the promised CCTV system in the parish.
A police spokesman later responded to Ms Ming’s claim: “Contrary to statements made today, the Bermuda Police Service can report that the first call about the disturbance on Water Street was received at 1.06pm.
“The call was dispatched at 1.08pm and the first police unit arrived three minutes later at 1.11pm.
“On arrival the officers found that the combatants had left the area.
“After conducting further enquiries we believe that two male family members, who have since been identified, were involved in a physical dispute.
“It now appears that the other men that got involved were attempting to stop the scuffle.
“There were no serious injuries reported and police continue making enquiries into the matter.”