Boscobel toll gang still extorting tourists. Barbados police helpless.

"The road is closed. I need ten dollars."

Close call with a Barbados gang on August 17, 2010

by Jack Bowman

For several years I’ve read BFP’s occasional pieces about the Boscobel toll gang as really good campaigning journalism—precisely the kind of journalism that this country is gasping for. But I have to concede at the outset that I also read them as something of an abstraction, something that didn’t have much to do with me or mine.

That changed last week when I finally encountered the gang. To jump to the end: nothing very bad happened; it was simply a little alarming. But without doubt it would have been much worse if BFP hadn’t been writing its stuff.

The set-up …

I was giving a couple of guests from overseas my patented island tour. The guests: a middle-age guy and his twelve year-old son. It was their first visit to Barbados, and their first full day on the island. Unbelievably, we got lost on the way to Bathsheba (I say “unbelievably” because all the signage is perfect up there, and all the maps are completely accurate and highly detailed, and I’m strongly against irony in any form).

The event …

Lost and wandering in the car, driving along labyrinthine byways, we came upon the wonderful world of Boscobel. I was slowing the car to move round a bend (windows up, air conditioning on) when a gentleman at the side of the road began making urgent hand gestures and talking to me.

I put my foot on the brake for one second, probably only half a second, before a little alarm bell started ringing in the back of my brain. It took another microsecond for me to connect the alarm bell to some stuff I’d read on BFP several months ago, and to connect that to the word “Boscobel”.

So immediately I understood the situation.

I ignored the guy and drove on, still lost. And a minute later we came round a corner and there all the gentlemen were, the whole crew in one place. Six to eight guys, some leaning against a car on one side of the road, the others sitting on the other side of the road. None of them looking like they had major career plans and went to church every Sunday.

I saw them, they saw us, and they all got up and started moving towards the middle of the road. I said “problem”. The kid in the back seat of the car got frightened. I put my foot on the accelerator.

I’ve never been so happy to hear my car go through its revs. The car moved fast, the engine revved loud, and instinctively the gentlemen moved back to the sides of the road. I drove through the space between them. It was a little Moses-and-the-Red-Sea moment.

The lessons …

Several things to be said in this regard, but two are particularly important.

First, anybody who tells you that this gang is no longer operational is simply lying straight to your face.

Probably we all make different decisions about what kind of politicians we want and what kind of police officers we’d like to have. Your opinion might differ from mine. Speaking entirely for myself, I can say with certainty that I don’t want my politicians and police officers telling me that water isn’t wet. I don’t want them lying straight to my face.

Second, if I hadn’t read BFP’s several articles about these gentlemen in Boscobel, it’s a near certainty that I would have stopped the car when I encountered the first guy. It’s almost a natural instinct to stop a car if a pedestrian at the side of the road is making frantic hand gestures. So I want to give a huge round of applause to the Barbados Free Press folks in this regard.

The simple fact that I had read a couple of items on BFP over many months definitely made a difference. It meant that I didn’t get intimidated. It meant that three people didn’t get robbed. And it meant that a twelve year-old visitor didn’t go home and tell all his friends (who would have told their parents) that Barbados is a nasty place with nasty people.

That would have been a calamity, because the reality is so utterly different. This island is full from coast to coast with some of the most courteous, civil, politely reserved and well-meaning people that any tourist could hope to meet anywhere on this planet.

Major kudos to Barbados Free Press, in my view. That was a genuine public service you provided with your pieces about the Boscobel gang. Saved my bacon. Very sincere thanks.

Jack Bowman

(BFP Cliverton says: Thanks for your story and support, Jack. You must be mistaken about the Boscobel Toll Gang still being in business though. Prime Minister David Thompson recently assured a tourist via email that everything is okay. If the PM says there’s no problem with the Boscobel Road Toll Gang, who are we lowly citizens to disagree?)

Further Reading about the leadership, dedication and capabilities of the Royal Barbados Police Force …

June 27, 2010 – Canadian investor Bob Verdun accosted by Barbados Boscobel Toll Gang

March 25, 2010 – Barbados Prime Minister emails Canadian tourist: “(Boscobel Road Toll Gang) has been investigated… I have received no other negative reports”

January 8, 2010 – Barbados Police Helpless as hundreds of tourists extorted every month by Boscobel road toll gang

June 17, 2009 – Boscobel Road Toll Gang Still Operating Freely In Barbados

September 16, 2008 – Barbados Police Helpless In Stopping Boscobel Road Toll Gang


Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism, Crime & Law, Police

19 responses to “Boscobel toll gang still extorting tourists. Barbados police helpless.

  1. Bull Pistle

    To get after that gang would be too dangerous work for the local police. Let them do what they do best – like check if you paid your car insurance, are wearing your seat belt – and so on….

  2. permres

    Last year I was driving with my wife on a little tour. I had my map, and I knew where I wanted to go. We have both now been in residence in Barbados for 14 years. (My wife is Barbadian, I am English).

    As we went through the junction, they shouted that the road was closed. I never stopped, although in my early years of driving in the UK I would stop for a hitch-hiker (circa 1960s), here in Barbados I have never done so.

    Problem solved, but what a shame, as a reflection of present day society.

  3. iWatchya

    If this lawlessness is isn’t arrested, it could very well escalate to the bad old days when guys used blockades and machetes.

  4. 82

    Friends of mine ran into them last Christmas and were very frightened. They pick on hired cars and one man stood in the middle of the road with his hand raised to stop them like he was construction or something. My friend couldn’t drive on with out hitting him and couldn’t reverse because others moved in behind the car. It cost him five American dollars to pass. I doubt they will return to Barbados they were too frightened and stayed at their all-inclusive for the remainder of their vacation.

  5. Erratum:

    Spelling mistake.
    Barbados Police are HOPELESS
    -not helpless.

    There is no WILL to enforce.
    It’s so much cheaper,safer,cooler to remain in de station house and wait for the moth-end cheque to come in.

    Govment wuk sweeeeeet!

  6. We jokey, yes?

    IF Barbados had a Police Force and
    IF Barbados was in the tourism business
    something wud be done about this years old problem.

    Fairly obviously, this is the same gang who’ve been stealing from visitors checking out the view at Cherry Tree Hill
    — another years-long problem, unattended to.


  7. Politically Tired

    @ 82
    Did they report this incident to the Police? BTA? the media? unless a big loud noise is made about this gang NOTHING is going to happen!

  8. BFP

    Hi Politically Tired,

    The problem is not that the police and the politicians don’t know about the Boscobel road toll gang. They have known for years. The Prime Minister even sent a letter to a tourist about the gang.

  9. FearPlay

    Not to worry folks, a solution is on the way. Remember how nothing was done about the robberies and rapes at Long Beach for years? It was even denied that there was a problem. Well, all we have to do is wait until a high profile tourist is robbed or even killed and once the international media gets on it thousands and thousands of dollars will be spent on damage control and bringing the perps to justice. See? Problem solved! Nothing like closing the stable door after the horse….

  10. Ruby Murry

    I encountered them about a year ago. They shouted that the road was closed and I drove on having read the ariticle on BFP. Thanks.

    It is a beautiful part of the island and a shame about the few rotton apples.

    Most Bajans are good people but it only takes good people to do nothing in order for evil to prevail.

    Something needs to be done to stop this before someone is seriously hurt or that the story ends up in some national press over in England or Canada. Tourists scare easily and Barbados’ safety is one of the things that sets it apart from many other islands.

  11. Politically Tired

    BFP I’m well aware that the Government & Police know about this gang, but unless they are bombarded with complaints nothing will happen.
    If the Nation or Advocate would be brave enough to run articles about ‘continuous harassment’ of tourists & locals alike by this gang, if people would report it every time they were harassed, if the tourist blogs picked it up more & ran with it, if at political meetings people asked their representatives why something hasn’t been done, maybe, just maybe, something would happen, or do we just talk about it again & again.
    How many times have you done articles about this gang? you seem to be the only people interested in it……

  12. Green Monkey

    Bajan cops like they doing like Yankee cops in hard times.

    Budget cuts are forcing police around the country to stop responding to fraud, burglary and theft calls as officers focus limited resources on violent crime.

    Cutbacks in such places as Oakland, Tulsa and Norton, Mass. have forced police to tell residents to file their own reports — online or in writing — for break-ins and other lesser crimes.

    “If you come home to find your house burglarized and you call, we’re not coming,” said Oakland Police spokeswoman Holly Joshi. The city laid off 80 officers from its force of 687 last month and the department can’t respond to burglary, vandalism, and identity theft. “It’s amazing. It’s a big change for us.”

    Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, the nation’s largest police union, said cutbacks are preventing many police agencies from responding to property crimes.

    As someone posted earlier, the first time a tourist gets their head licked in or a knife jooked in their ribs after being waylaid in Boscobel, the politicians and the police will be in full-court-press reactive mode. There will be much venting of hot air and promises of unceasing efforts to apprehend the miscreant(s), as the BTA spends dollars by the bucketful to assure a dwindling pool of potential visitors that this was just an anomaly and that, by and large, Bajans are really friendly folk.

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  16. Graeme

    These guys are still live and active.

    My parents (visiting the island from England) were stopped in their hire car by a guy claiming the ‘road was closed’ yesterday (9th Aug 2011) – he having blocked it with a car and trying to direct them on a different route. He then wanted $10US for his trouble and wouldn’t leave them alone.

    They left him with the few dollars change they had loose in the car and carried on down the road to find it wasn’t blocked. Wise move.

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  18. Stephen

    @Erattum , No it is HELPLESS

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