MP warns that layoffs have had a violent effect, as police step up Ivy patrols
The increasing lawlessness in The Ivy, St Michael, cannot be simply blamed on the abuse of illicit drugs and alcohol by the district’s youth.
This was the contention today of the parliamentary representative for the area, Trevor Prescod, as he gave his interpretation of what had triggered the recent outbreak of gunfire in his constituency, causing several residents to fear for their safety.
Police have stepped up patrols in The Ivy in response to the flare-ups, including one which occurred last weekend, leaving 23-year-old Crystal Cottle, who is three months pregnant, nursing a gunshot injury to her leg.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Erwin Boyce told Barbados TODAY this evening the situation demanded more than a one-off response. He has called on the community to assist police in managing the situation, for which he said lawmen were currently working on a major sustained plan.
However, charging that the recent violent episodes were symptomatic of the economic woes currently gripping the country, the Opposition St Michael-East MP said: “It is always very difficult to get to the cause of what is really happening, but what I can speak about is what is manifesting itself in The Ivy.”
He went on to reveal that there had been a number of shootings “some reported to the police, some not reported”.
Prescod, who returned to the country on Sunday from the United States, said as recent as yesterday he had received news of what was happening on the ground in The Ivy.
“What is most disturbing about the situation is that everybody seems to know what the solution is without knowing what is the problem,” he told Barbados TODAY. He added: “We have to accept that there are certain social and economic conditions that have changed in the environment.
“The reality is there are a number of young men who are unemployed fathers in the community. They are also a number of young women in the community who have been laid off from the National Conservation Commission and other areas of Government,” he said.
He further pointed out that currently there were very few “wholesome activities on the ground” in The Ivy.
“There was a time when I would have been able to offer some alternative activities to ‘moralize’ their leisure [but] the unemployment situation puts them in a position where there is a need for something to do; there are demands which they have to meet on a daily basis.
“I am not saying that there are no persons in the community who might not be involved in deviant behaviour,” the MP however said.
“The problems that we have are man-made problems and call for deep discussions with individuals within the community and at the level of Government so that we can put alternative programmes in place.”
Responding to reports that many of the youth in the area were drowning their sorrows in alcohol and drugs, Prescod contended that all marginalized communities across the country were experiencing these negative behaviours.
“There is obviously a state of hopelessness in The Ivy. No one can tell you what they can expect tomorrow. These tensions tend to emerge where there are limited opportunities,” Prescod said.
Giving lie to speculation that the violence was associated with drug abuse, Prescod said: “Lawmen have encountered situations where no guns were involved at the specific time.”
He stressed that residents in The Ivy were living under very difficult economic circumstances.
“I recall cases where people come to me and say, ‘Look, I need to have a job because I want to be out of this’. I was speaking to a young man yesterday and during that time he was in gainful employment, but as soon as he becomes unemployed again, then he returns to the same type of behaviour in the community.”
He charged that in many cases some of the youth had benefited from secondary and even tertiary education, but were unable to find gainful employment.
Prescod, who is trained in sociology, maintained that the youth’s gravitation to guns, alcohol and even marijuana, was their attempt to avoid emasculation by what they see as an oppressive social and economic system.
The outspoken parliamentary argued that once there was limited employment opportunities in a country or district, policymakers could expect social problems, such as those that were bedevilling The Ivy community.
He therefore said he intended to seek a meeting with Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite and the Minister of Social Care Steve Blackett with the aim of putting a number of policies and programmes in place.