Commissioner of Police, Mark Collins has said the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF) can do more to maximise the publication of notices for wanted individuals in the territory.
The Commissioner noted the police force has taken steps in recent times to deal with this issue which has become a cause of concern among residents in recent months.
“I think we can maximise the use of the publications more. You would have seen more recently, with the consultation of the Joint Task Force, the 11 individuals that escaped from the custody of the Immigration, that those individuals were put out in the media,” Commissioner Collins noted.
“Those were some photographs the police services had taken in conjunction and liaison with the Immigration Service that was launched, and those names and photographs were put out in the media, but I do take your point and there is more we will do in the future in relation to media releases and photographs,” the top cop said in response to questions from members the media.
The issue of placing a face to the name of wanted persons has become a top priority as many residents were saying they could be interacting with a person wanted by the RVIPF and not be aware because of the lack of photographs of these persons in circulation.
With the recent recapture of prison escapee Jose Almestica, three persons were charged with harbouring him. They are Jennifer Smith, Renee Smith, and her brother Shamal Smith.
When Renee and Shamal were arraigned at the Magistrate’s Court, their attorney Stephen Daniels raised the point that there was no perpetual notice or warrant for Almestica who was wanted by the RVIPF.
“There was no perpetual warrant issued by the RVIPF on their website, on their Facebook
page, any newspaper in general circulation in the territory, or on any online news site save and accept there was a wanted bulletin on the RVIPF Facebook
on October 27, 2017, and a similar request in the beacon newspaper on the 27 of November 2017,” Daniels stated at the time.
The defence attorney further said the lack of notice and perpetual warrants for these wanted persons, especially those who have been wanted for a long period of time can be problematic as individuals might not be aware that these persons are fugitives and unknowingly harbour them.
“From my training experience, Interpol always have on their website wanted person perpetually every single day with their picture and it is a publicly read notice. RVIPF has no public notice for no wanted persons and that is very critical,” Daniels argued.
Under the territory’s Criminal Code of 1997, it is illegal for persons to knowingly harbour a wanted person. Those found guilty of the offence face various prison sentences based on the gravity of the offence the person they harboured committed.
According to the Criminal Code, if the sentence of the offence committed is fixed by law, the harbourer faces a maximum sentence of 10 years. Meanwhile, if the person harboured faces a sentence of 14 years or more, the harbourer faces a maximum penalty of seven years. Finally, a ten-year sentence for the harboured person carries a maximum penalty of five years for the harbourer. A person who harbours a prison escapee faces 14 years imprisonment.