Commissioner of the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force Michael Matthews announced that he still stands by the names of gangs he identified in November 2016, but did not mention if since then the RVIPF has gained knowledge of any other similar groups.
Back in November the Commissioner turned heads when he declared that the two known gangs are known as SOB and Zone 6. In naming the groups the Commissioner said: “One is the SOB and a rival gang known as Zone 6. We are well aware of who they are; we are well aware of what they are up to.”
In a recent update on March 16 the Commissioner maintained his previous claims about gangs in the Territory. However, he noted that these local groups seem to be imitating other known overseas gangs: “We have got the emergence of gangs that seem to be trying to copy what’s going on in other Territories and other Caribbean countries and that’s what we’ve got to target and tackle.”
Mr. Matthews disclosed that the Police is also aware of instances where the two gangs faced off: “On occasions rival gangs are squaring up to each other in the Territory and that is connected to the use of firearms.”
Nonetheless, the Commissioner announced that he would not link SOB or Zone 6 to any fatalities as this time: “I wouldn’t be in a position to say categorically at this stage whether any of the fatal shootings are categorically linked to gang violence.”
In 2013, Intelligence Manager of the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force, Sergeant Ivor Fraser disclosed that the existence of gangs in the Territory has always been swept under the rug.
According to the veteran lawman, research show that gangs have been operating in the British Virgin Islands since 1996, and at least 13 gangs have been recorded over the years.
“Some have died their own death, but there are still active gangs, and a number of the present gangs have emerged out of our school systems. Gangs are not illegal, but when they are involved in criminal activities that is the time when they are considered illegal gangs,” Sergeant Fraser said while speaking against the backdrop of a Gang Awareness Presentation held at the Sports Complex in Road Town. The presentation was a joint effort between the RVIPF and the United States Virgin Islands Police Department.
According to Fraser, police reports have indicated that groups operating as gangs have tormented the society at a lower level. However, he stated that the BVI is not experiencing high statistics in gang-related killings.
“If we can nip it now and address it (gang awareness) into homes and get every child to understand when their behaviour is gang-like we think that this is a great initiative. We attempted to bring awareness to the BVI to remove the doubts and the naivety of individuals who think that gangs do not exist here,” he said.