JUST LIKE IT IS: Crime gets worse
The wave of criminal activity sweeping the Caribbean is a major concern to right-thinking regional citizens. It is even more worrying knowing that in some islands tourism is the main income source and protection of life and limb of tourists and residents should be paramount.
The double-deadly Salters shootings early in August would have given our tourism negative European exposure. That followed closely on a leading British newspaper reporting that regional states were withholding factual information on criminal activity, fearful of scaring tourists from visiting our sunny paradises.
August was particularly memorable in Barbados when seven men were allegedly murdered. In St Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis and Belize, there has also been a noticeable increase in murders so far this year.
In these and other states, fear stalks the land, causing serious lifestyle changes.
In St Kitts, estimated population last month 50 314, there have been 25 murders this year, leading to a call for the Regional Security System to assist in arresting the spate of serious crimes and restore a sense of national security, peace and normalcy. In Jamaica, the Caribbean crime capital, beheading is the latest murder style.
I understand that in some Caribbean countries some serious crimes are committed by nationals repatriated from metropolitan countries, particularly the United States, after serving jail time. Barbadians will long remember the skilful, nefarious activities of the deported, departed “dead bolt man”, who honed his superior skills there.
The Barbados Government over a decade ago spotted a serious flaw in the United States deportation regime where criminals on completion of jail terms were repatriated accompanied by a law officer but with no background information.
I am aware that our Government asked unsuccessfully for some time for a full background dossier on deportees to assist the authorities here in pinpointing their areas of special competence and idiosyncrasies, making it easier for local police investigating crimes.
Let me cite an empirical example. Some years ago, a friend I knew most of my life called one morning, saying he needed to see me urgently. Coming over, he drew my attention to a newspaper report of a particular crime, telling me he recognized the modus operandi, which was similar to one he was part of in New York, and thought he recognized certain key factors.
I took him to the police station to report the matter. The police made a raid and found the large quantity of goods which had been stolen. I make the point that if the US authorities, on deporting convicts at the end of their sentences, send an information package along with the deportee, forensic perusal of the data bank would point in the right direction.
The new outbreak in serious crimes in Barbados, particularly murders, is a challenge not only to the police, but all law-abiding citizens and our accustomed way of life. We must all stand shoulder to shoulder and do our utmost to assist law enforcement agencies in bringing criminals to justice.
The entire Caribbean was shocked at the recent case in Trinidad where a 14-year-old girl was apprehended for posting a threat on the social network, Facebook, against the republic’s Prime Minister. I am having the greatest difficulty in rationalizing what could have provoked a child to post a threat against her head of government. What a terrible sign of the times!
The republic is currently under a state of national emergency with an eight-hour nightly curfew in certain “hot spots”, trying to curtail spiralling acts of serious crime across that country. I was in disbelief a few weeks ago hearing on a newscast from a Trinidad radio station that seven people had been killed in 24 hours. Life there seems cheap and something had to be done urgently.
This latest declaration of war on criminality has netted 850 arrests so far, a large haul of offensive weapons and illegal drugs. Necessity is still the mother of invention and if, in the opinion of the elected representatives of the people of Trinidad and Tobago, this latest dragnet is considered the way to limit severe criminal activity and help those living in fear in their own homes, then it is justified. Its success will be judged post facto.
Caribbean governments must not be afraid to use every legitimate strategy at their command to counteract this new spate of crime. In recent times, across the region, too many of us find ourselves and families under house arrest once the sun sets, fearful of marauding, anti-social thugs committed to violent crime to get whatever they want.
The immediate challenge is to try to identify the reasons for the upsurge of serious crime and steer the population, particularly the youths, in the right direction. It will not be easy, but only cowards will resile.