EDITORIAL: Barbados needs to be a safer destination
Whether or not the call for a special court for tourism-related crimes comes into being, Barbados needs to be safer – for the half-million tourists who visit here annually and, equally, for our citizens.
This fair land is not immune to the dramatic increase of crime, mainly robbery-based and drug-related, that has been sweeping the Caribbean in the last decade; but keeping these shores as safe as possible must be paramount, particularly in the current challenging economic times when every tourism dollar and every ounce of positive publicity counts.
As Barbados is a prime tourism destination, its entire landscape often becomes an idyllic getaway for those who live in cold climes and who themselves face the spectre of crime in all forms daily.
Each corner of Barbados should therefore be a potential haven for visitors, whether they are seeking to savour our variety of food and drinks or to soak their cares away in the crystal-clear waters surrounding us.
It is therefore necessary that law enforcement personnel be visible at these vantage points; and for this we must commend the Royal Barbados Police Force, whose members can be spotted patrolling beaches on battery-powered Segways or on foot, or combing the rural and urban corridors in vehicles.
The call by Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) president Patricia Affonso-Dass to take law enforcement a step further is new and is worthy of discussion, since crime threatens to undermine the country’s main industry and indeed spill the very lifeblood of the economy – foreign exchange.
And lest her call be dismissed as a knee-jerk reaction to the recent spate of attacks that included the daylight shooting of a visitor in Bridgetown, it must be emphasized that any such incident is one too many for an island which has worked extremely hard to build its reputation for stability and safety.
Her call also reinforces the argument that the local wheels of justice continue to move too slowly and that our court processes need to be modernized.
The attacks on tourists, however, are also symptomatic of a philosophy that has long discarded the values of pride and industry. President of the Barbados Bar Association, Andrew Pilgrim, pointed to the home as one area where such values are ingrained or hindered.
Touching on the fact that “young men of Barbados need proper father figures”, he could also have noted the virtual non-existence of the guiding grandparent in many modern homes, the heavy dosage of foreign negatives via popular media, the lack of mandatory church attendance, an unnatural embrace of the ghetto culture, and attendant ills such as incest and “hush money” for rapes.
To paraphrase Pilgrim in his reaction to Affonso-Dass’ call at the BHTA’s first quarterly meeting for 2013: if we begin to get some of those things right, then we are on the right track.