RON IN COMMON: Crime on the increase in Caribbean
JAMAICA HAS FOR SOME TIME battled a murder rate that is both frightening and unbelievable. It has become the norm for the country to record more than 1 000 murders. Surely, many would have said that this could not happen in any other Caribbean nation. Not anymore.
Despite the bravado of a long list of fearless men of the Jamaica Constabulary, the introduction of a gun court, the dread of the gangs, the emergence and removal of Christopher “Dudus” Coke, the promises of both the People’s National Party and the Jamaica Labour Party, nothing has really changed for the better.
Going to Jamaica and leisurely walking around Ocho Rios and, to a lesser extent, Montego Bay is not too scary an undertaking. But not in Kingston, despite what anyone may try to convince you otherwise.
Unfortunately, the extreme violence experienced in Jamaica is taking place too often and is now almost to be expected. But even amongst some Jamaicans, the types and level of criminality are astounding.
Take the murder last weekend of two American missionaries who have been doing work there for the past 14 years. Their efforts and goodwill meant a lot to residents they served; to those who perpetrated the crimes, these lives simply did not matter.
The kind of blood-spilling seen in Jamaica was something most other Caribbean nations would have once boasted can’t happen in their lands. But, sad to say, that would now be considered idle talk. Barbadians certainly do want that type of behaviour across our small island, but we can’t say it will never happen here.
Take Trinidad and Tobago, once the kidnapping capital in the region where in 2007 some 155 people were taken against their will by criminals looking for easy money through ransoms. Thankfully, last year only three people were kidnapped.
On the flip side, 395 people were murdered in that year of record kidnappings and the number rose to an all-time high of 550 the following year.
Last year 410 people died violently in the twin-island republic and so far this year, 155 have been murdered. We should not even try to suppose what the figure will be like at year end. But it is a worrisome situation.
This is not a reassuring feeling for Trinidadians, Jamaicans, Guyanese, Grenadians, Barbadians or any other people from across the region. Port of Spain is a bustling place to do business, to party at carnival or even to consider an education given the ever-expanding range of accredited higher training institutes. But, who wants to go to a crime-infested place where there is no guarantee of personal safety?
The situation is made all the more alarming for Trinidadians who may be looking to relocate to St George’s or Bridgetown, since the criminal element may be moving with the crowd.
The terrorist group Islamic State which is causing such havoc and panic in the Middle East, Africa and Europe has known sympathisers and members from and in Trinidad. Well, that is what the lawmen and the political establishment in the twin-island republic have been saying. They should know.
But it is not only those involved in the terrorist activities but the petty criminals who can also move across the region relatively easy. We cannot forget or overlook those in the service of the transnational drug cartels, smugglers of illegal weapons or human traffickers. At the end of the day, the lure is all about money, regardless to how it comes.
The situation is so bad that the Americans have now warned citizens to “exercise caution and good judgement” while in Trinidad. Even when you arrive at the airport and clear customs and immigration you have to be on the lookout for the criminals.
The Americans are warning their people. CARICOM governments, including Barbados’, ain’t getting into no internal affairs of another country. Let’s hope no Bajan is killed in Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s country while on holiday, business, or as a student.
Unfortunately the situation isn’t much better in Guyana or Puerto Rico and I feel very uneasy about taking my spouse to St Lucia given the number of rapes recorded there.
The situation in Grenada is not any better than St Kitts and Nevis, Belize or Suriname.
We can no longer make mock-sport of crime and violence.