When will we actually bite the bullet?
Acting Police Commissioner Tyrone Griffith must be sorry now that he opened his mouth last week to report that crime was down by 16 per cent for the year so far.
It would seem that ever since then, the criminal element has been bent on proving him wrong.
In fact, brazenly so, with one robbery actually occurring at the same time that the island’s top cop was addressing the media conference at his office. Thankfully, no one was injured and the culprit has since been apprehended.
Since then, we have had several reports of one crime or other –– the two latest today being a shooting in Silver Hill, Christ Church, and a burglary outside the St Barnabas Anglican Church in St Michael.
This is not to say that Barbados is not safe, or that we have been overtaken by criminals, but there is a level of hitherto unseen aggression in our society which we simply cannot turn a blind eye to, or which the authorities can no longer sweep under the carpet.
We just need to read the most recent signs.
Only yesterday, in a never-before-seen occurrence for many of us, an official of the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) actually addressed a meeting of high-level tourism authorities from across Latin America and the Caribbean to assure them that Barbados was safe.
“I speak on behalf of the Royal Barbados Police Force, and give you the assurance that, not only because tourism is a central economic driver for our economy and our country like the rest of your countries, we give paramount importance to providing a safe and secure environment for all who visit our shores from time to time,” Inspector Barry Hunte told the hemispheric gathering at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
“That said, we would want to impress upon you that, at all material times, it is important that you remain situationally aware of whatever environment you are in, either here at the hotel conducting your business or while going about public spaces. Be assured that we, members of the Royal Barbados Police Force, working in harmony with . . . stakeholders at the national level, as well as private security providers, will leave no stone unturned to provide the environment that you can go about enjoying as you move about Barbados,” Hunte added.
But if that was not enough of a sure sign, reference could be made to this week’s statement by Acting Prime Minister Richard Sealy on the occasion of the fourth anniversary of the Campus Trendz fire, in which six young women perished.
Mr Sealy, who is the substantive Minister of Tourism, took the opportunity to zero in on the crime problem without attempting to conceal the fact that the situation was quite troubling.
“As we remember the victims of that sinister act on September 3, 2010, and reflect on their lives, we must also find ways to stop the perpetuation of violent acts which result in the loss of lives of our most productive citizens,” said Mr Sealy.
“In recent times, we have been experiencing a level of violence which is unfamiliar to our society, and this is a worrying trend for all of us. As a nation, we decry these acts; but we must do more. We have to unearth the root cause or causes and deal with them head-on,” he added.
We do agree with the goodly minister that we urgently need to get to the bottom of this problem. As we would have said in a previous Editorial last week, it is time to show the criminals we have not become soft on crime.
This sentiment we believe is worth repeating over and over until the authorities actually start to act more decisively.
For the moment, it would seem the police have a handle on the situation, once a crime has actually occurred. This is supported by the fact that they tend to catch the criminals pretty quickly after an offence has occurred.
But we still need to strengthen our surveillance and monitoring to stop crime before it happens, and to arrest the worrying problem for good.
And, of course, put more bite into our domestic legislation.
As controversial an issue as it may be, we may even have to bite the bullet and revisit the hangman’s noose in short order, so criminals feel there is more to retribution for them than just three square meals per day and an extended “vacation” at the pleasure of Her Majesty Prisons Dodds.
Surely, this issue calls for much more than a gun amnesty.