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Island hit by crime surge

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Reassuring the public: Supt Sean Field-Lament said Police were doing everything possible

Bermuda has witnessed a four-week spike of 20 crimes featuring a degree of violence: 18 incidents of chain-snatching, and two separate armed robberies over the weekend.

The surge is a sharp increase from the 13 robberies recorded in the entire of 2014, and “cause for concern”, according to Police.

Authorities yesterday said they were considering releasing CCTV images of the suspects in the two robberies on Friday and Saturday, each of which apparently involved a firearm, once the best quality images are isolated.

Both establishments had their own security cameras, as well as CCTV outside: the MoneyShop on Middle Road, Warwick, and the Maximart supermarket in White Hill, Sandys. While Superintendent Sean Field-Lament of the Bermuda Police Service said it would be premature to link the two robberies, he conceded their methods bore a striking similarity.

In both cases, the suspects took pains to camouflage themselves, wearing dark clothing, latex gloves and helmets with tinted visors.

On the longstanding question of whether dark-tinted visors should be banned — an idea which has widespread public support according to a new survey by this newspaper — Supt Field-Lament said the matter was for legislators to tackle.

Facial recognition is said to be among the capabilities of the Island’s security camera network, but Police have been reluctant to divulge specifics for security reasons.

Two men carried out the Warwick robbery, while in the White Hill incident a gunman entered the store and left on a motorcycle driven by another man who waited outside.

Supt Field-Lament said he wished to reassure the public that police were doing “everything within our powers to address the recent emerging crime trends”.

Chain snatching has been linked in the past to dares and displays of bravado.

While Supt Field-Lament declined to speculate whether economic hardship had fuelled the rise, he said the public could protect themselves against opportunistic crime.

“When someone rips chains off people and walks around with guns, everyone is at risk,” he said, advising residents to “limit your risk by refraining from presenting yourself as a target of opportunity, by not wearing valuables especially gold chains openly”.

Meanwhile, last night Michael Dunkley revealed he had met with Governor George Fergusson and the Acting Police Commissioner in the wake of the recent wave of violence. The Premier urged residents who knew anything to speak up. He said: “Meeting with the Governor and the Acting Commissioner today, it is clear that the Police are working with the victims of these crimes and those members of the community who may have witnessed something related to these violent events.

“It is important that witnesses provide whatever information they have.

“The smallest recollection or detail can prove critical to the investigation. I think it is important for our residents and visitors to be alert to their personal safety and likewise for business owners to adopt preventative measures on their premises, using the technology available to assist in any investigation in the event of this kind of incident.

“The vast majority of Bermudians do not endorse this kind of violent behaviour and as recent cases before the courts have shown, it is the courage of ordinary men and women whose witness accounts have brought criminals to justice. If you know something, say something.”

Three suspects have been brought before the courts in the past two weeks for grabbing jewellery, Police revealed yesterday. For businesses, security cameras and height scales along store entrances are a deterrent said Supt Field-Lament, who also noted the timing of the attacks, which came shortly before closing time.

Advising business owners to be vigilant of persons “casing the place out”, he added: “Certainly closing time is historically when businesses at the end of the day have the most money.

“There are not as many people around; people are tired — that itself presents an opportunity.”

Anyone who believes they may have seen anything, or who might have any information that could assist police, should contact the main police number, 295-0011.

<p>Rising trend of jewellery-snatching this year </p>

Cases of robbery, many of them petty jewellery-snatches, have risen significantly this year.

Notable cases of the year thus far include:

• February 4: three men, one apparently armed with a gun, rob a woman of her motorcycle at Astwood Park, Devonshire;

• February 20: Four men in dark clothing invade a Deepdale Road home with bladed weapons;

• June 9: an armed man vaults the counter at Butterfield Bank in St George’s, escaping with cash;

• June 10: a man wielding a hammer robs two visitors on the Railway Trail in Sandys;

• July 24: two men with a knife, heavily covered to hide their identities, hold up the Mr Chicken Express in Devonshire;

• August 9: two men threaten a pedestrian in Hamilton into withdrawing cash from an ATM;

• August 24: two men on a motorcycle, wearing dark clothes and black helmets, snatch a purse from the bike basket of two tourists in St George’s;

• August 29: a Premier Division cricket match between Southampton Rangers and Willow Cuts in Southampton is abandoned after a player has his chain snatched by a spectator;

• September 11: the MoneyShop, Warwick is targeted at 4.20pm by two masked men with a firearm;

• September 12: a gunman in black, face covered, demands cash at the Maximart in Sandys and drives off with an accomplice;

• August/September: police record 18 incidents of chains being snatched, with culprits targeting riders of cycles who are openly displaying neck chains.