Royal Navy Deploys to Help Fight Gang Violence in Turks & Caicos
In response to a surge in gang violence, the Royal Navy is dispatching the fleet oiler RFA Tideforce to the Turks & Caicos Islands. The security situation has rapidly deteriorated on the ilands over the past few weeks, with 11 fatal shootings in September and a further four in October - all allegedly linked to a Jamaican maritime smuggling gang.
The Tideforce has an embarked Wildcat helicopter, which will provide surveillance capability and support security operations on the islands. It is RFA Tideforce's second call in the Turks & Caicos in two weeks: she deployed to the area in late September to help provide relief after Hurricane Fiona.
While the UK did not announce plans to deploy Royal Marines, a team of 24 Bahamian firearms specialists are reinforcing local police units on the ground. The nations involved are working on a "contingency plan for additional specialist support to deploy" if needed. Additionally, the U.S. is providing maritime surveillance support, including fixed-wing aircraft and a Blackhawk helicopter.
"The UK has a moral and constitutional responsibility to support and protect the people of the Overseas Territories, who are a valued part of the UK family. We had to act following the terrible violence we’ve seen in the Turks & Caicos Islands these past few weeks," said Foreign Secretary James Cleverly.
Turks and Caicos Islands Governor Nigel John Dakin said last week that the violence is driven by a commercial dispute between a Jamaican gang and its local competitors.
“Using military grade high velocity weaponry, the vast majority of the murders in September have been targeted and linked to this enlarged and now emboldened [Jamaican] gang trying to remove who they believe are the local drug and arms smuggling competition. Those local criminals, already established here, are fighting back," Dakin told the TCI's House of Assembly last week.
To address this threat, UK also plans long-term support for the islands' security needs, including the recruitment of a "serious crime team" for the TCI police force. Britain will also provide support for customs and border control improvements, to include additional intelligence capability, advice on lawful intercept laws, and provision of a maritime surveillance aircraft for the islands.