The police, principal and teachers of the Leon Hess Secondary School are now on high alert as they attempt to curb a group of bandits who have been robbing students of cellphones and other possessions near the school in the past few weeks.
According to Principal Rohan Lubon, the robberies are usually done at knife point in the afternoons, after students are dismissed from school.
Speaking to Saint Lucia News Online (SNO) on Wednesday, Lubon said that this is not the first time these incidents have occurred.
He pointed to another spate of robberies in the area some time ago, which also affected two other schools in the district – the St Joseph Convent and Entrepot Secondary School.
An increased police presence was instituted at these locations, and the robberies were brought to a halt. However, Lubon said that they recently resurfaced.
Fortunately, no one has been hurt, Lubon said. There were reports of four robberies on his students this month.
“The robberies are happening on a regular basis after school. They are targeting the children’s phones especially,” he said, adding that meetings have been held on a district level to discuss the matter.
“We have filed reports to the Marchand Police Station ….The persons who are robbing [the students] are pretty young guys. As a matter of fact, probably in their teens and early 20s. I, as the principal I have done my part to assist to the point where I was able to get pictures of those individuals to the police to be identified by some other students … Some of the students recognise some of these individuals from the neighborhood,” he added.
Lubon said that while he has seen an increased police presence in recent times, the robbers have become strategic in their actions. He explained that students are no longer being robbed immediately after school, but later in the afternoon about 3:30-4 p.m. after extra lessons or meetings.
“They are the ones who are usually targeted. [The robbers] do not come immediately after school. They wait until the crowd has subsided before they could attack the students. They usually produce weapons, mainly knives [and they] stick the knives at the children…”
Students have been cautioned to walk in groups, according to Lubon, “but even when they walk down in groups these [robbers] are fearless. As a matter of fact, one person approached seven students and he took phones from three of the students.”
Lubon said that staff has also advised students to wait on the compound for buses just as a precaution, but not all of them take heed. Some leave the school grounds to wait under trees and corners and become victims to the robberies.
“Some [students] may even deviate from the regular route instead of staying on the road and they take the back road and are targeted in those areas,” he added.
He said that while students sometimes don’t follow guidelines, it does not eliminate the fact that “a robbery is a robbery” and that it does not mean students should be violated.
The principal took the opportunity to note that the school is doing all it can to stop the problem. He pointed out that security personnel at the institution have been patrolling daily and if a robbery is reported, teachers sometimes try to get into their vehicles to chase the robbers but “there is only so much you can do.”
“So it’s a matter of more police presence, that is what we really need and when those persons are identified especially when we assist by providing photos … we just need that to be expedited in terms of getting those individuals,” he told SNO.
He lauded the Marchand Police for being very cooperative in dealing with the matter.
“They do their best. As soon as they are called, they are usually at my school in no time. So they are trying but those guys doing the robbing are very smart. They come at certain times when they know they police have already made their rounds or they go somewhere else and they target the students away from the school,” he said.
Lubon said that there were no robberies at the school for the first two school terms.