Several brutal killings have shaken the small Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia, as murders in the country reach record levels.
The country recorded 25 killings during the first five months of this year and a record 74 homicides in 2021. Assistant Police Commissioner George Nicholas spoke recently about the rise in murders, saying that “we have too many homicides being recorded for our little population,” according to Caribbean outlet Loop News.
In the final days of May, two young men were killed on successive days in the town of Vieux Fort, according to former prime minister and current Member of Parliament for Vieux-Fort South, Kenny D. Anthony, who called for an urgent meeting with police.
SEE ALSO: InSight Crime's 2021 Homicide Round-Up
Residents of Vieux Fort, a town at the island’s southern tip, collected 20,000 St. Lucia dollars ($7,400) as a reward for information on the shooting death of 21-year-old Jesus Blanchard. A video of Blanchard’s killing showed him sitting by the side of the road with another man on the night of May 28, when a gunman walked up to them and shot Blanchard several times.
Other slayings in May have frightened citizens. On May 23, Catharine Charles, 56, was found dead inside her home in Laborie, a village on the country’s southern coast. About a week before, the body of 54-year-old Mary Gimie was discovered outside her home in the western town of Soufriére.
InSight Crime Analysis
The record 74 murders recorded last year in St. Lucia means the country had a homicide rate of 40 per 100,000 people. This places it among fellow Caribbean nations Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica in the top five countries with the highest homicide rates in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2021.
Gang violence has been blamed for much of the recent bloodshed in St. Lucia, which has a history of street gangs. In November 2021, Anthony wrote in a Facebook post that the town of Vieux Fort had “virtually become a war zone.”
St. Lucia serves as a transit hub for South American cocaine moved to the US and Europe. Traffickers draw on local gangs to receive and protect drug shipments. Competition for this slice of the drug trade and street drug sales often drives violence.
US firearms are also smuggled into the country. For example, a Pennsylvania man was sentenced in March 2022 to about four years in prison for trafficking nearly 40 weapons to a buyer in St. Lucia. The guns – concealed in packages of detergent, cat litter and other home goods – included semiautomatic pistols, rifles and high-capacity ammunition, according to a US Justice Department news release.
In March, Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre announced that he planned to seek “draconian penalties” for the illegal possession of weapons and ammunition. The majority of the killings in St. Lucia are committed with firearms.
Murders often go unsolved. Only one in five killings were cleared in 2020, according to the Central Statistical Office of St. Lucia. The Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (RSLPF) has been criticized for its low murder clearance rate, and public complaints have been made about the absence or reduction of on-duty officers.
St. Lucia is not alone in the region in its struggles with rising violence. In the Caribbean, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados have seen gun violence and homicides increase in the past years.