As Crime Rises, Government & Top Cop Clash
While the British Virgin Islands continues to see an escalation of violent crimes, some during daytime hours, the government and the Commissioner of Police have publicly clashed over a crime plan.
The matter stemmed from a plea from Deputy Speaker and At-Large Representative, Hon. Neville Smith, during the recent sitting of the House of Assembly. Hon. Smith called out the Commissioner of Police Michael Matthews to “come to the public in two days and give us a plan on what he has to fight crime right now, with what’s going on in the BVI.”
“I could give him two weeks, but he needs to come with a plan to the people to say how he’s going to fight these crimes. We had five deaths or murders just the other day; what are we hearing? People are going to say they are waiting on what the government is going to do. What the government could do? We already put things in place!”
In response to Hon. Smith, Commissioner Matthews spoke to local radio ZBVI on Monday, where he revealed that a plan on crime was already before the National Security Council (NSC).
He further informed that the plan was submitted in 2020, but it was only brought before the NSC on February 10 this year.
Matthews then used the words ‘noisemakers’ during his interview and said, Hon. Smith was making excuses when he said crime-fighting was solely the responsibility of the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force.
“This should be a joined-up effort, and if individuals want to call me out and say ‘you are not doing enough,’ that just sounds like an excuse to me,” Commissioner Matthews remarked.
However, Deputy Premier Dr. Natalio Wheatley was not pleased at the Commissioner’s response and addressed the matter during a televised talk show – VIP Radio, Let’s Talk– last night, March 16.
Dr. Wheatley said he felt compelled to support Hon. Smith, who he said made a passionate plea to the Police Commissioner to communicate with the public on how he plans to deal with violence.
“Now is not the time for division, now is not the time for casting blame,” he reasoned.
“The first thing I would like to highlight is what happens in NSC is confidential, and I am not at liberty to share with the public the contents of the meetings that takes place. The Commissioner disclosed a document that was brought to the NSC that was being considered. Certainly, given my oath, my pledge to the NSC, it is not my place to discuss that document with any member of the House or any member outside of the NSC,” he expressed.
Dr. Wheately explained that it is inappropriate, even though he and Hon. Smith are in the same party.
"Proceedings of NSC are confidential, and the Commissioner of Police informed that the document had not yet been approved, and it is still under consideration, and I am not at liberty to discuss that document with any person outside the NSC. Actually, what was discussed at NSC being disclosed over the radio is inappropriate,” Dr. Wheately stated.
Referring to Hon. Smith, he said, his plea cannot be dismissed as ‘noise.’
“We cannot say that an honourable member of the House of Assembly is being naïve and what the honourable member was expressing he expressed on behalf of the people of the territory who saw the need for more engagement on this area of violent crimes in our communities. It’s not a competition; it’s not a blame game,” he added.
He said the Commissioner should have made a statement that was “more sensitive, and more responsive.”
These statements were made following yet another murder in the territory, where a man was gunned down while driving in the Fish Bay area in broad daylight yesterday.