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Overall crime down, serious offences up

Michael DeSilva, the Commissioner of Police (File photograph)

“Crazy and unforgivable” — that was the damning indictment of the level of drink-driving in Bermuda yesterday by Police Commissioner Michael DeSilva as he provided the crime statistics for 2016.

Lamenting that 11 people lost their lives on the island’s road last year, Mr DeSilva said that police would back an initiative to provide officers with handheld breathalysers provided they are used as a “deterrent”.

“When it comes to the level of impaired driving, we are in the top half of the global numbers; that is crazy and unforgivable,” he added as he spoke of the “severe limitations” that present legislation presented to officers.

“It is time to take a real hard look at all the measures.”

Meanwhile, Mr DeSilva announced that total crime for 2016 was down, while serious offences — including murder, assaults, and robberies — were up.

Notably, last year’s 31 confirmed firearms incidents — up from 12 in 2015 — represented the highest subtotal for the last five years. Similarly, the 14 firearms fatalities and injuries recorded in 2016 make it the highest year since 2011.

Mr DeSilva acknowledged that an increase in the police’s budget and the hiring of 30 new officers this year would help put more boots on the ground and increase the police footprint in the community.

But he maintained: “I do not want us to ever think that simply throwing more police resources at a problem is the answer.

“Tackling crimes, gangs and antisocial behaviour requires law enforcement and that is our job but it also requires the community to keep their foot on the gas. We need more joined up solutions that continue through Government and the community.”

According to the report the total number of crimes recorded was 3,587 in 2016, down from 3,751 in 2015.

The report classified offences into three categories: crimes against the person, crimes against property, and crimes against the community.

While property and community crimes were down, crimes against the person — including murder, assaults, sexual assaults, robbery, and offences against children — were all up. Discussing the rise in robberies, Mr DeSilva said that while it was worrying, he cautioned against being “alarmist”.

“Almost all robberies are crimes of opportunity to acquire money or other property, or they result from tensions and clashes between rival gang members,” he said.

“In all cases, we continue to advocate crime prevention tactics to reduce the opportunities for robberies to occur, and we encourage anyone to call in with information about suspicious activity to help catch and convict the offenders.”

Previously, crime statics reports were published on a quarterly basis, and included drug seizure information. The 2016 report, and future reports, will be produced annually, with a separate report on drug seizures and enforcement likewise produced annually.

Release of the data was delayed by “technical issues” created by moving from one system of crime recording to another, the Commissioner said.

“The exercise of migrating data from one system to another was a lengthy one, and we took care to ensure that the numbers in this report are completely accurate,” Mr DeSilva said.