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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06BRIDGETOWN700
2006-04-26 20:56:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Bridgetown
Cable title:  

ST. LUCIA: VIOLENT CRIMES HIGHLIGHT POOR SECURITY

Tags:   ASEC  CASC  PGOV  PREL  SMIG  KCRM  ST  XL 
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VZCZCXRO5855
PP RUEHGR
DE RUEHWN #0700/01 1162056
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 262056Z APR 06
FM AMEMBASSY BRIDGETOWN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2342
INFO RUCNCOM/EC CARICOM COLLECTIVE
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 1410
RUMIAAA/HQ USSOUTHCOM J2 MIAMI FL
RUMIAAA/HQ USSOUTHCOM J5 MIAMI FL
RUEHCV/USDAO CARACAS VE
						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BRIDGETOWN 000700 

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR CA/ACS/OCS, DS/ITA, DS/OSAC, DS/IP/WHA, WHA/CAR
SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC CASC PGOV PREL SMIG KCRM ST XL
SUBJECT: ST. LUCIA: VIOLENT CRIMES HIGHLIGHT POOR SECURITY
SITUATION

REF: BRIDGETOWN 524

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BRIDGETOWN 000700

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR CA/ACS/OCS, DS/ITA, DS/OSAC, DS/IP/WHA, WHA/CAR
SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC CASC PGOV PREL SMIG KCRM ST XL
SUBJECT: ST. LUCIA: VIOLENT CRIMES HIGHLIGHT POOR SECURITY
SITUATION

REF: BRIDGETOWN 524


1. (SBU) Summary: A series of violent crimes has drawn
attention to St. Lucia's poor security situation, which has
the potential to hurt this Caribbean nation's tourism-
dependent economy. In the course of only a few weeks,
several St. Lucians were killed, the nation's Roman Catholic
Bishop was attacked, a shootout occurred at a popular beach
that sent tourists running for cover, and American citizens
were robbed by machete and shotgun wielding assailants. The
Government of St. Lucia has said it is taking the necessary
measures to insure the safety of tourists on the island,
although the police have complained of a lack of resources
that prevent them from effectively doing their job. Post
expressed to the Government its concern over the crime
situation in St. Lucia and may recommend toughening the
language on security in the Consular Information Sheet. End
summary.

--------------
A Series of Spectacular Crimes
--------------


2. (U) St. Lucia has experienced a series of spectacular
crimes in recent weeks that have drawn attention to the
small island-state's poor security situation. In the first
four months of 2006, the country has already had ten
murders. These include the killing of a homosexual man
whose body was found in March tied to a tree in what family
members said was a hate crime. In April came the shooting
death of a 15-year-old boy whose father believes he was
killed for providing the police with information that led to
the capture of a criminal. Gang-related violence spilled
out of poor neighborhoods in April and into St. Lucia's main
tourist area, Rodney Bay, where gangs exchanged shots in an
incident that sent tourists diving for cover. Most shocking
to many was the attack on the nation's Roman Catholic Bishop
who narrowly escaped being killed by a knife-wielding

assailant who is believed to be mentally unstable.

--------------
American Citizens Robbed
--------------


3. (SBU) Groups of men armed with machetes and a shotgun
robbed American citizens in two recent incidents at the same
St. Lucia hotel. The first incident occurred in February at
the Tikaye Village resort on the island's west coast when a
group of five armed men attacked an American couple in their
hotel room (reftel). The police arrested two suspects but
later released them for lack of evidence. In early April, a
nearly identical attack on a different American couple
occurred at the same hotel. Police are investigating but
have yet to find the assailants. Following the second
attack, the Permanent Secretary in the St. Lucia MFA called
the Ambassador to express his Government's concern over the
incident and explain that the police were increasing patrols
in tourist areas. This unprecedented action by the
Government occurred before Post had even learned of the
incident.

--------------
Crimes Under Investigation
--------------


4. (SBU) The police are thoroughly investigating the crimes
against Americans and have increased their patrols in the
area where they took place, Assistant Police Commissioner
Hermangild Francis told Conoff during a meeting held to
express the USG's concern over these incidents. Francis
explained that the police realize the importance of tourism
to the St. Lucia economy and will do everything possible to
prevent crimes against tourists. Solving crimes has proven
difficult, however, as the police often find witnesses
unwilling to testify against suspects. In the case of the
February attack against the American tourists, for example,
the hotel security guard who was tied up by the assailants
refused to identify them out of fear for his safety.

--------------
Police Short of Officers and Equipment
--------------


5. (SBU) Police effectiveness is also hampered by a lack of

BRIDGETOWN 00000700 002 OF 002


personnel caused by an annual attrition rate of 50 percent
as trained officers leave St. Lucia for higher salaries on
other Caribbean islands such as St. Maarten, Bermuda, and
the Bahamas. Interestingly, the Assistant Commissioner
complained that the USG is partly responsible for this high
attrition rate, as some police officers who receive U.S. non-
immigrant visas leave St. Lucia to find work in the U.S. or
to transit the U.S. on their way to Bermuda and the Bahamas.
As a result of attrition, only 32 of the 58 positions in the
force's Criminal Investigations Unit are currently filled.
(Note: According to press reports, the Government of St.
Lucia will ask the UK to send officers from the Metropolitan
Police to assist this beleaguered Caribbean force. End
note.)


6. (SBU) A lack of equipment is another problem facing the
police, who have an outdated fleet of 10-year-old vehicles
that badly need replacement. The Assistant Commissioner is
hopeful that the next Government budget will include funds
for new vehicles; in the meantime the police rely on
vehicles donated by corporate citizens.

--------------
Police Downplay Shooting
--------------


7. (SBU) Police attempted to downplay the April shoot-out in
the heart of St. Lucia's tourist district as a matter of
rival gangs firing at each other, according to the British
Resident Commissioner in St. Lucia, Kelvin Greene, who spoke
to the police about this incident that several British
citizens reported. Greene explained to Post that when the
police told him that the shooting was gang-related this
implied that he should not worry about the situation because
British tourists were not the actual targets. The diplomat
noted that the police presence in Rodney Bay and elsewhere
in St. Lucia is typically nonexistent, and that the private
security guards hired by hotels were not subject to
background checks.

--------------
Is Crime Really on the Rise?
--------------


8. (SBU) Americans who reside in St. Lucia complain about
police ineptitude but generally feel safe, Conoff learned
during recent discussions with American residents of the
island. The Peace Corps country director reported, for
example, that staff and volunteers living in St. Lucia have
not been the victims of any serious crimes. Both Post's
consular warden in St. Lucia and the director of St. Lucia's
prison, long-time American residents, told Conoff that crime
is not really on the rise. The prison director explained
that there is a perception that crime is increasing because
violent crimes receive a lot of attention in the press. The
reality, he said, is that most crimes are committed by gang
members against other gang members and not against innocent
victims. Most of his prisoners are repeat offenders who
spend time in jail, cannot find work when they are released,
and revert to a life of crime.

--------------
Comment
--------------


9. (SBU) Although Americans who reside in St. Lucia feel
safe living there, recent events indicate that visitors to
the island could become victims of crime. Post will
continue to monitor the situation in St. Lucia and, if the
current trend continues, may recommend modifications to the
Consular Information Sheet warning Americans of the security
situation. The British High Commission, likewise, has
decided not to change its guidance for travelers at this
time but may do so if further incidents occur. Such an
action by the U.S. or UK is bound to encounter criticism
from the Government, which appears to have attempted to pre-
empt such a response when it called to inform Post of the
latest incident involving Americans. St. Lucia's tourism-
dependent economy is in danger if crime is not brought under
control. The question remains how forcefully the Government
will respond to the situation.
KRAMER