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Gomez raps crime across region

Tony Best

Gomez raps crime across region

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It may have been a welcomed breather from the flow of bad enough news.
For at a time when Barbados’ top crime fighters are reporting a decline in serious offences in 2013, crime and violence are sweeping the Caribbean island-nations.
And the current spate of homicides, shootings, armed robberies, domestic abuse and other serious forms of criminal behaviour across the region has so unnerved a retired West Indies Anglican archbishop, the Most Reverend Drexel Gomez, who at different times headed the church in Barbados and later in his native Bahamas, that he used the word “scourge” to describe what was happening in the Caribbean, especially in his homeland.
“It is a major scourge right now,” the cleric and theologian told the Daily Nation in his description of what was taking place in most islands. “In The Bahamas it is beyond a scourge right now and we are quickly becoming like Jamaica. The murder rate is over 100, as was last year, and crime and violence are considered a major threat to social stability and it has economic undertones also.”
Just last week, acting Police Commissioner Tyrone Griffith disclosed that overall crime in Barbados was down five per cent in 2013 when compared with the year before. He characterized the decline as a “significant drop”, making it a “successful year for the police”.
According to him, predatory crimes, especially robberies and thefts from persons and street crimes, were down. Street crimes had fallen off as the police made inroads into illegal activity spawned by the cash-for gold business.
Economic conditions
Archbishop Gomez, who led the Anglican Church in Barbados for several years before returning home with his Bajan wife and their children, said that like many of its neighbours, The Bahamas’ crime problem could be traced in part to the economic conditions there, a development he considers to be quite serious. But that’s not all.
“There’s a sociological problem in The Bahamas where we allowed an underclass to grow  and develop and that was ignored for too long and now it is raising its ugly head,” he said in New York where he attended a special two-hour service celebrating the 50th anniversary of the ordination of Anglican Canon Llewellyn Armstrong, a Barbadian priest who has served in Canada, the United States and his birthplace.
“There are persons [in The Bahamas] with very little social skills and who attach no value to human life, and who are determined to get what they wish to achieve irrespective of the cost.
“There is a biblical expression I use: it is ‘they fear not God nor man’ and that’s driving quite a lot of the crime. Then there is this access to guns. Almost every day there is some reference to crime involving guns and the government seems unable to discover the source of the guns and to control it.”
Gomez lamented the inability of Caribbean countries to come together effectively under the banner of the Single Market and Economy, an unfortunate development which was contributing to the economic decline in the region.
“We seem to be drifting apart instead of getting closer together,” he added. “The Caricom concept does not seem to be as strong as it used to be.”
Jamaica recorded more than 1 000 murders this year while the homicide rate of Trinidad and Tobago has come close to last year’s figure.
In Barbados, the acting commissioner said that police officers on the beat, investigators and senior members of the force were doing their work, “policing in difficult economic times”. Interestingly, crime had fallen at a time when the force was having problems recruiting officers to fill more than 100 vacancies.