Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Barbados police probe WhatsApp conversation

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Barbados Today:-The Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) is probing a conversation making the rounds on social media, which, if it proves to be authentic, could have shuddering implications.

Public Relations Officer Acting Inspector Rodney Inniss said lawmen were aware of the alleged WhatsApp conversation which seemed to indicate that someone in the underworld was preparing for war.

In what appears to be a dialogue between people of ill-intent, the initiator sought advice on where to obtain bulletproof vests, complaining that an urban gang had bought all that had been available from a “supplier” in The City.

Inniss told Barbados TODAY this evening it was illegal for “just any Tom, Dick or Harry” to possess such body armour, or to sell the ballistic vests without official approval.

“Even police officers have to have certain things to import [these vests]. . . only certain agencies are allowed to import, so it is not something that is readily available,” he said, although the senior police officer admitted the vests may be accessible on the black market.

“Just like you have camouflage, just like you have firearms, you need to have the requisite permission to import and to purchase and to sell those kinds of things,” the police spokesman stressed.

The authenticity of the WhatsApp exchange has not been verified, and it is not clear whether or not it is a simple chain message with mischievous, instead of malicious, intent.

Still, the content is chilling, and, if it turns out to be real, would signal a possible escalation of the violence that has already had Barbadians worried and fearful for their lives.

“You know anybody that selling bulletproof vests…? Link me back,” the apparent initiator said, to which a response came that one vest would cost $800.

“Ok, I’m gonna need 2 bulletproof vests,” the apparent initiator continued, going on to discuss unsuccessful efforts to secure such vests from a provider, because one gang had bought everything.

“Barbados at war FAM [family],” the message continued, to which the other person respond:

“Yup . . . U know.”

This is not the first time that police have been forced to probe troubling messages on social media.

In June last year, a grim message trending on social media had threatened possible violence during the annual Foreday Morning jam.

An apparent screen shot of the WhatsApp conversation which was circulating on Facebook at the time, claimed that  there would be a “bloodbath” at the Crop Over event to avenge the killing of a young man.

The RBPF had issued a statement saying it “has taken the conversation seriously and an investigation has been launched”.

Lawmen had also urged the public to provide any information about anyone or any group who might have wanted to disrupt any event.

There was a strong police presence and the threat never materialized.

However, with a staggering upsurge of gun crimes – 19 of the 23 murders this year have been firearms related – the Force is wary of any potential plot that could result in even more bloodshed.

Inniss told Barbados TODAY he had never seen this level of crime before, particularly gun violence.

However, he said Barbadians needed to be reassured of their safety.

“Right now as you can appreciate you can see what is happening. We have to encourage the public and reassure the public of what is going on because the public is obviously very fearful at this point in time . . . because we never really had it like this in Barbados,” he said.

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