EDITORIAL: Pause on violence
THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO DOUBT that we have a problem with violence and violent crime in Barbados.
There can be no arguing the position that too many seem incapable of negotiating their way out of challenges or simply turning the other cheek. They resort instead to violence at the drop of a hat.
And when we add to that what appears to be the ease with which some of us would take the property of others, even if violence is required, the problem becomes even more glaring. But even in the face of this, context in framing the picture is essential.
One aspect of the recently released report by the Inter-American Development Bank on crime in Barbados and other selected Caribbean countries should serve to point us to some social ills we need to address if we are to overcome the challenges of violence. It should also serve to save us from unnecessary despair.
That report indicated that the murder rate in Barbados in the past decade was the lowest among the countries examined. And while it did not specifically say so, a further examination of region-wide figures would suggest it is among the lowest in the Caribbean.
We do not wish to give the impression that we believe even a single murder is acceptable, but if there are aspects of our existence that are worthy of note then we should not be ashamed to take note. That report pointed to the fact that there were 31 murders in Barbados last year, the highest number since 2006 when 35 people were killed. That amounted to 11 murders per 100 000 population in 2015.
In The Bahamas the number of murders recorded was 149 – 15 per 100 000; Trinidad and Tobago recorded 410 – 31 per 100 000; and Jamaica recorded 1 192 killings – 45 per 100 000. The overall regional murder rate was 16 per 100 000.
So far this year in Barbados we have recorded 14 murders, and if the trend continues it would suggest we should complete the year with 18 or 19 killings that fall within this category, leaving us with a murder rate this year of approximately seven per 100 000.
It would be a major achievement if each member of our population determined that not another life will be taken in this country this year, born entirely out of a recognition of, and respect for, the sanctity of life.
If that’s not a motivation, perhaps those inclined to strike out violently would recognise that the Royal Barbados Police Force has had an exceptional record so far this year in solving homicides. The chances of getting away with murder in Barbados are slim, literally.
Given this state of affairs, and given our size and the intimacy of the population, it really is not beyond us to take the kinds of steps that would see us consistently record a murder rate that is almost negligible. That report pointed us to the geographical areas that appear prone to crime and violence, although truth be told, we really did not need the IDB to point them out to us.
We can learn from the negative experiences of others without having to repeat them. We know that, for example, it is no cliché that the “devil finds work for idle hands” and that young people who are gainfully occupied, whether it is with employment, education or training, and who see meaningful opportunities in their future, are less likely to act irresponsibly.
We know that people who don’t have access to guns, or who fear the punishment that comes from using them, cannot or will not use them. We know that people don’t get high from hard drugs if they can’t access them. We also know that while in the best of social circumstances you will find a child who still goes astray, generally youth who are well nurtured and supported by their families and communities will travel in the right direction and excel.
What we also know is that when those we elect to lead perform their duties well it results in a society that is generally well ordered and respectful of authority and established values.
If we really want to make a difference in this our 50th year of Independence we really can complete 2016 with only the 14 murders already recorded.