People need to step forward and report crimes to the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) if there is to be any chance of retribution, or any reduction in the number of criminals roaming our neighbourhoods.
More recently, it seems that members of the public have taken to airing news of criminal activity on social media, most notably WhatsApp. Whether the offence has happened to them directly or not, it is common to see footage or hear commentary on social media of matters that are not aired via traditional media sources, and which are never reported directly to the police.
Usually these messages spread like wildfire and it takes mere hours for a wide cross section of Barbadians here and abroad to become aware of the situation. However, there is one segment of society which is often left out of the loop – the elderly. Based on their very age, senior citizens tend not to be too technology savvy and instead glean their information from traditional news sources like CBC TV8 news, the local radio stations and/or newspapers. These latter media organisations use reliable, researched information as the foundation for their news broadcasts, and are therefore not likely to repeat what is being shared on social media – a forum fraught with opinionated views that are hard to corroborate and sometimes even outright lies.
This means that warnings about shady characters frequenting certain areas and underhanded schemes targeting the elderly, which are posted online, very often do not reach other potential victims.Unfortunately, this has led to more malicious acts being perpetrated against older people recently. Scenarios include men pretending to represent local companies, or providing limited information about one of your family members and pretending to be a friend, then coming into your home and tricking the elderly into handing over money or valuables.
These types of situations occur more frequently than many realise and it is not enough to find a few minutes of fame by posting them online; people must take the correct action and call the RBPF to make a report. The police want to catch these criminals, but are being hindered by a lack of cooperation. It is not fair to assume that law enforcement has received the same social media messages. Cell phones are not a part of the uniform issued to officers and while personal phones might be used to assist in solving a case, they certainly should not be the sole basis for starting an investigation.
Furthermore, it is unreasonable to expect the RBPF to chase down and corroborate every supposed scam that appears on WhatsApp, where all too often innocent people are blamed falsely. The Police have procedures to follow and this involves following up actual reports made by the public. It is hoped that people heed this advice and do the right thing.
As Senior Citizens’ Month draws near, everyone should take a moment to consider the safety of those elderly loved ones living on their own, or even other seniors in the neighbourhood. Talk to them and advise them on the types of scenarios that could occur and provide a safe harbour for them share their concerns.