Archive for July 24th, 2014

Police should be more friendly, GT community says

Police should be more friendly, GT community says

| 24/07/2014 | 31 Comments

(CNS): Following an RCIPS community meeting at the Prospect Primary School Hall on Monday night, where just 6 people attended, a meeting for the Scranton Community on Tuesday night attracted a slightly larger turnout of around 20. One of the main criticisms levelled at the local police from the Scranton community was that they do not take the time to get to know the community as the officers of the past did. George Town Area Commander Angelique Howell accepted the complaint. “If you don’t know us, you won’t talk to us,” she acknowledged and said that “every police officer should be a neighbourhood police officer”.

“The police don’t have to be my friend,” said local businesswoman Christine Burke-Richardson, “but I feel that police should get to know people, to see who they can trust.” She said she had seen a difference in attitude in the new police officers over the last five years, and even the commissioner was not friendly.

However, Howell said that while the police did have a responsibility to get to know the people, the members of the community had a responsibility to come to the police meetings and voice their concerns, and she pointed to the small numbers of people attending. “It’s sad,” she said, “but we can’t give up.” Scranton Beat Officer PC Cornelius Pompey noted that before the meeting he had gone house to house to give out flyers about the meeting but few of the people who said they would come actually showed up.

Those present complained that people are getting too bold with ganja, smoking it right in the open, and there was a discussion about a number of people with mental health issues harassing people and begging. One of them was often armed with a knife or a screwdriver, it was said.

Commenting on police response time, CI Howell noted how busy George Town is compared to the rest of the island. In the capital, they deal with around 350 calls for service per week, compared with 80 in West Bay and around 70 in Bodden Town. Because resources are not as good as they’d like, the have to prioritise, she said, and dealing with something like a domestic dispute can take several hours.

Since the 1 of January this year to present a total of 317 crimes ranging from burglaries, thefts, harassment, street robberies and loud music, were reported in that area and the surrounding areas. Other crimes included drugs, gambling and antisocial behaviours.

Scranton Community Committee Leader Dale Ramoon said he thought that some of the drug users and people arrested in the area were not from the area, which, he said reflected badly on the community. CI Howell agreed that many of the crimes are not being committed necessarily by the residents within this particular area but by other persons who travelled to the area or being harboured in the area by the residents.

The officers spoke of the partnership with the business community in forming a business watch program, the partnership with other government agencies in addressing the social concerns of some troubled persons, mostly the young men and also the police actions as it relates to addressing criminality within these areas.

Ramoon outlined some of the initiatives that are being undertaken within the Scranton community to improve the image of the area, and said they were looking for men to act as role models and mentors for the young men of the area.

Chief Inspector Howell commended the leaders and residents who work continuously for the improvement of their community, and their willingness to work with the RCIPS in addressing the criminal and social issues affecting them.

On Monday night at the Prospect Primary School Hall, CI Howell said the level of attendance “was very disappointing. While I understand that attending a meeting such this impacts on social & family, I was hoping for a greater turn out from the community in order that I could learn about the issues affecting them, and provide them with information about what we are doing in their area and the plans we may have for their area in the coming months.”

The police can only be effective when they work together in partnership with the community to reduce crime, she noted.

Despite the low turnout, CI Howell stated that there was a healthy discussion among those who did attend and she was pleased with the suggestions they received.

Complaints of the heavy speeding that consistently occurs along on Shamrock Road, Spotts, were voiced, and suggestions made that speed cameras would be beneficial in that area, as this would assist the police who cannot be everywhere all the time. The suggestion was accepted and the commander will be raising this with the National CCTV committee.

The group also discussed various ways in which to build partnership between the police and the communities, one suggestion being that the police should get the community involved when planning community meetings so that they can assist in getting the messages out to the public. CI Howell accepted the suggestion and promised that future meetings will see both police officers and community members driving it forward.

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Exception made for robber

Exception made for robber

| 24/07/2014 | 74 Comments

(CNS): Two local men involved in an armed heist of a courier van in George Town some two years ago were sentenced to seven years jail time Wednesday, while a third man from West Bay became one of the first people involved in gun crime to escaped the mandatory minimum sentence. Manuel Ramirez Carter and Brandon Reno Liberal were sentenced to 6 years for robbery and 7 years for possession of an unlicensed firearm to run concurrently, after changing their pleas to guilty on the day of trial, 25 February this year. However, John Phillip Cohen-Ebanks, who admitted his part in the crime from the outset, was given 3 years after the judge found exceptional circumstances as a result of his cooperation with the authorities. The fourth suspect, Tarick Crawford, was deemed unfit to plead and submissions are still to be heard.

In October 2012 a courier from Sprint was robbed at gunpoint outside of BritCay offices on Eastern Avenue. The crime had been planned, and involved two getaway cars and handheld radios. No one was injured. The gunman Carter made off in a white Mitsubishi being driven by Cohen-Ebanks with CI$8,117 and US$519. All four men were caught on Kirk Home Centre’s CCTV cameras, and incriminating evidence was left in the car.

A victim impact statement read at the sentencing revealed that although no shots were fired, the courier felt that he was deeply affected by the event. He had to leave his job and is too scared to leave home, and it is also understood that he has begun drinking heavily to cope with the event.

At the sentencing hearing in May defense attorney Clyde Allen asked the presiding judge, Justice Charles Quin to consider that Cohen-Ebanks’ cooperation, among other issues, amounted to exceptional circumstances.

Although all firearms possession attracts a minimum sentence of ten years following conviction after trial and a potential discount down to seven years following an immediate guilty plea, judges can hand down a lesser term for exceptional circumstances. Discounts can amount to up to half the appropriate sentence depending on a number of factors such as the risks taken by the defendant and the quality of the information he or she provides.

Justice Quin noted that Cohen-Ebanks had cooperated with both the prosecution and the RCIPS. It was said that without Cohen-Ebanks’ “significant assistance” two of the men prosecuted would have never been charged. The judge said that in cases like these one must punish the defendant for their crime, whilst also rewarding them for their cooperation.

Liberal had handed in an unlicensed firearm late September 2013. Because of this, Furniss requested that Liberal’s sentence be considered with exceptional circumstance. Justice Quin said that it was “a mitigating factor but not an exceptional circumstance” regarding possession of an unlicensed firearm and that Liberal should have handed in the gun earlier for this to be considered. Following the hearing Furniss confirmed that he would appeal the case.

Meanwhile, Cohen-Ebanks has been in custody at the George Town police station since his arrest almost two years ago and will remain there for the foreseeable future. It was agreed that he not be sent to Northward prison.

Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryll Richards, QC, prosecuted the case.

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Madeleine Rowell recently finished her International Baccaluareate Diploma atUWC-USA and is heading to Stanford University.

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