Armed robbers strike again
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December 11, 2012

Armed robbers strike again

More police officers will be visible around Kingstown during the Christmas season, as several business places have fallen victim to robbery recently.{{more}}

Assistant Commissioner of Police Michael Charles told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday the increased police presence will be in a bid to deter potential criminals, and offer some sense of security for individuals and business places.

But one victim of a recent assault on his establishment says security should go beyond greater police presence and extend to stiffer penalties for convicted felons, given the gun-related robberies over the past weeks.

Andre Antrobus, proprietor at Antrobus Enterprises Ltd, said in a separate interview yesterday that more should

be done to keep robbers behind bars for longer periods.

He said this would be a greater deterrent.

“For me, it’s not only the police patrol alone … When the police go out and bring in them men, they getting too much short term in prison. They need to get a heavier sentence for these things.

“So when they go there and spend a 20 years or so, when they come back out, they will have enough time to relax they brain…” Antrobus said.

“But you send them in there for two or three years; when they come back out on the road they do the same thing.”

A robbery of Antrobus’ Stoney Ground supermarket and furniture store escalated into a shoot-out Thursday evening, when two masked gunmen entered the premises, with guns blazing.

“I was here about 7:30, and as soon as I pull out and went up the road to get a sandwich, I call back here … I hear the screaming and noise in the back. Two masked men now rush in here pelting bullets,” Antrobus told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday.

One eyewitness, who was in the store at the time, said that customers and staff were caught offguard.

“We were in here when the security guard shout, ‘Gunman! Gunman!’ Then the next thing we started hearing multiple shots firing at us, so we just had to run for cover.”

The witness said that bullets were flying in all directions and destroyed boxes and parcels of food on shelves.

At that time, the witness said, Antrobus’ brother, a licensed firearm holder, who was also present, pulled out his weapon and returned fire at the bandits.

The bandits retreated hastily, leaving with a fistful of money.

“Them get away with 50-something dollars in small change. Some coins that was dey in a bag; but they ain’t been able to touch the cash [register],” Antrobus said.

“They see I step out, so they figure that they clear to go through, but they ain’t know he (his brother) was in the back and armed,” he added.

One of the men is believed to have been injured in the exchange, but this could not be confirmed.

The witness said staff were still shaken by the ordeal, and didn’t feel too safe because of what had transpired.

“Imagine I coulda lose my life for $50,” the witness stated. “Them men dey pon some stupidness.”

Some hours earlier, shots were fired in yet another daylight robbery.

Just before 3 p.m. Thursday, a masked bandit entered St Hill Mini Mart in Campden Park, demanding money and valuables from persons in the shop.

Shop owner St Hill Da Silva, no stranger to robberies at his business place, said that the bandit came down the road with an umbrella over his head.

“Apparently he had the mask on at the time, but he shield himself with the umbrella so that nobody could have detect him.

“As soon as he reach by the gate he drop he umbrella, pull out he gun and come in.”

The shop owner, who has been operating his business for close to 30 years, said the masked man began to wrestle with customers in the store for their possessions.

“I saw that and ran upstairs for my gun, but when I came back he was already gone.”

While DaSilva went to retrieve his firearm, the bandit relieved a man of a cellphone and went behind the counter and took money from the cash register.

“He got a couple five dollars, nothing much at all. Only about a hundred was in the draw,” DaSilva told SEARCHLIGHT Thursday.

While leaving the shop, the thief threatened one of the employees, then fired a shot behind her head.

The bullet missed the woman, and lodged in the wall above the shop door.

Outside the business place, he then fired multiple rounds, shooting at bystanders as he fled.

This happened just as students of the Lowmans Leeward Anglican School were to be let out for the day.

No one was injured during the robbery.

DaSilva, whose shop had been robbed four times before, including in 2010, when he was shot in the leg, said that although he was saddened by the events, he was relieved that no one was hurt.

“It’s disheartening, because I don’t really need this to get by. I am only doing the community a service, like I always do. But I will continue, because God is in control, and I believe that this is what he gave me to do, so that is what I am doing, not to gain anything from it as such.”

Stepping up security

Meanwhile, ACP Charles, who indicated that both matters were still being investigated, said that the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force has stepped up security in Kingstown and the suburbs, and advised citizens to be extra cautious and vigilant during the season.

“People will definitely see a police presence. We will have police in uniform and plain clothes,” Charles said.

“We are asking persons to be careful … It is better to lose money than lives. We are also asking persons to alert police if they see anything suspicious.”

Charles said that there has been a spike in armed robberies over the past weeks, although he was not in a position to present figures.