Governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands Nigel John Dakin has addressed the House of Assembly in connection with the surge in gang violence in the territory.
Efforts are being made to end the ongoing crime situation, which, he said, is related to Jamaican gangs and serious transnational crime.
In a bid to get control of the situation, the governor stated firearms specialists from the UK arrived on Sunday’s British Airways flight and were at work Monday with the TCI’s Tactical Firearms Unit. More UK resources will follow during the coming week.
In addition, an Anti-Gangs Team of 24 detectives, funded by the UK, to an initial tune of ?3 million, is being recruited. Its forward elements arrive shortly.
Addressing the latest shooting incident, Governor Dakin said on Sunday night, following an attack in Long Bay against those who were allegedly associated with local drug dealers, and where an innocent visitor from the United States was killed, a Police Tactical Unit – on patrol and deployed with the express mission to arrest violent criminals – intercepted the assailants.
The police vehicle was hit by multiple strikes from high-velocity rounds.
“How an officer was not killed is remarkable. Our Tactical Unit returned fire and while it is still to be confirmed (and I may need to revise this), we believe one of the deceased – whose body was dropped in Dockyard by his fellow gang members – had been shot in the forehead as a result of our officers returning accurate fire under extraordinary pressure.”
Explaining the lead-up to the surge in shootings and gang violence in September, the governor said several months ago two local gangs lost their leadership.
One extremely violent local gang leader was shot dead by police while resisting arrest. The other, a Haitian gang leader, who the police had made four separate attempts to arrest in the shanty areas of ‘Romy Yard’ was killed — by one of his own — before he could be arrested.
The vacuum and confusion this created, allowed a predominantly Jamaican gang — with a relatively small footprint in the TCI — to reinforce from Jamaica. They had been seeking to kill one of their local rivals, following his attempt to steal from them.
Governor Dakin told Members of the House to remember the three days of shooting in Five Cays during April as this initial feud played out.
He said using military grade high-velocity weaponry, the vast majority of the murders in September have been targeted and linked to this enlarged and now emboldened gang trying to remove who they believe are the local drug and arms smuggling competition.
Those local criminals, already established in the TCI, are fighting back.
“I need to stress, not everyone killed has been involved in criminality, as one example. Some will recall I attended the funeral of Justin Cox-Beckles whose murder was utterly senseless. That murder is indicative of a wider issue: of the many eyewitnesses, none will give evidence. In this murder, CCTV was instrumental in generating an arrest.
“But it is also true that many who have been murdered have been linked to criminality and a spiral of reprisal killings, including to avenge some innocent as well as criminal victims, has been the result.
“Some who know that they are being targeted have left the Islands. Some of those who have been murdered were themselves murderers. Some having executed their crime, have slipped away through fast boat,” he said.
The TCI governor said, despite these challenges, there have been arrests but current legislation only allows the police to hold for 48 hours, and with witnesses and victims not prepared to talk — even those who have been shot — the policing challenge is significant.
He added that the police’s heavy presence in Five Cays, after the double murders, saw the gang relocate to Dockyard. Significant policing operations in that unregulated development saw the police go through the doors of more than 30 properties, where they came under fire from third parties.
Several days ago, there was an exchange of fire with one Jamaican, who dropped his weapon but escaped. On Saturday night a high-speed police pursuit resulted in three arrests and seized weaponry.
There have been calls for the resignation of Governor Dakin due to the current climate. The governor on Monday said he will not be resigning, as he stated:
I start by saying that some who have called for my resignation have no personal credibility to make that demand, and if it were just them, they would not warrant serious attention.
The governor said while some Members of the House have called for the commissioner’s resignation, he would not accept the commissioner’s resignation if offered because it would help the gangs and not the territory.