As the nation focused on the Vicky Boodram story last week, police officers made a grisly discovery in Tobago. In a house at scenic Canoe Bay, Roshan Lutchman’s decomposing body was found. The jeweller had been tied up. It was the twelfth murder recorded on the island in the last year, a statistic that even police are now concerned about.
“This is quite unusual for Tobago,” said Ag Snr Supt Joanne Archie in an interview with Newsday. “We just recorded two in the last month.”
The numbers might seem paltry when compared with Trinidad’s appalling statistics, but one murder would be bad enough. For an island that relies heavily on tourism, a single incident of crime can devastate entire communities and contribute to crippling economic malaise.
Unfortunately, the killings are becoming more frequent. On November 18, Richard Ramos Carmona was found shot to death in a car at Blenheim, not far from the Prime Minister’s Tobago residence. On November 13, Rondell Campbell was shot in Mason Hall. He died at hospital.
This is all a far cry from the peaceful island that once inspired Robinson Crusoe and Treasure Island. Today, even Tobago’s Secretary for Finance Joel Jack can tell tales of waking up in the morning, “to the sound of about 42 rounds of gunshots in close proximity to my street”.
The spate of killings led Tobago House of Assembly Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles to unveil a new crime plan last month. The new plan involves greater focus on firearm offences, increased police surveillance, and a dedicated hotline for Tobagonians to report crimes.
These measures, however, sound far too familiar. Tobago needs properly outfitted police stations, a working CCTV network, greater control of its ports, an enhanced international airport, and the deployment of law enforcement talent capable of building trust within communities. Lessons should be learned from other tourist destinations such as St Lucia that have dealt with crime sprees in the past.
The Tobago police have reported an increase in detection—up from 30 percent to 35 percent. While this is a move in the right direction, more needs to be done. Tobago’s pristine image, once lost, might never be regained.