Year in Review: Shocking gun crime year
The issue of crime was one of the foremost matters on the minds of Barbadians this year, fuelled by a series of brazen gun-related attacks and killings. The regular occurrence of gun crimes caused members of the public to levy a volley of criticisms at the top brass of the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) after the hierarchy had announced that crime was down.
By August, the country had recorded 19 murders –– 12 of them gun-related, with some 30 firearms seized by lawmen.
Acting Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith pointed to a drug link, while disclosing that the majority of gun crimes had been committed by people between the ages of 15 and 29.
“In more recent years, we’ve seen much younger individuals getting involved in violent crimes. Obviously there is some breakdown in the family; there are social ills,” he told the Press. “This violence is not directed to the public at large, but rather to a restricted group which engages in a particular type of behaviour that is driven by the drug culture. That is not to say that we are not concerned about the death of these young men.”
Families of the victims struggled to deal with the shocking deaths; many relied on their faith to carry them through the difficult period.
“I believe in God, and he will see me through this sad experience . . . . I have an unshakeable faith in my God,” said Sandra Francois, whose 29-year-old son Ricardo was gunned down outside a bar at Danesbury, Black Rock, St Michael, at the end of last month. Four other people were injured in the reported drive-by shooting.
Two months earlier, in September, Nepaul Trotman was shot while on the beach at Fitts Village in St James while he was holding his baby son. He succumbed to his injuries a day later.
And in yet another incident, 28-year-old Cyprian Payne was shot multiple times while trying to escape a fire se to the Happy Cot Road, Bank Hall, St Michael residence where he was staying with his girlfriend. It later emerged that it was a case of mistaken identity.
“I have never experienced anything like this,” said a shaken, Sonia Parris-Headley, Payne’s girlfriend’s mother.
That incident prompted chairman of the Barbados Christian Council, Monsignor Vincent Blackett, to express concern that too many young men appeared to have no respect for life.
“We are witnessing a lot of people who are now trigger-happy and something has to be done about it,” the clergyman said. “A couple years ago we did have a look at crime in Barbados and the council, the Police Commissioner, people from social work and other agencies came together. At that time, it was presented to us that things weren’t as bad as they looked, but since then things have changed.”
Blackett added: “We have to stamp this out, because we have to become our brother’s keeper once more, as we did in the past. We need to get everybody to say ‘no to crime’,” the religious leader insisted.
Director of the National Task Force On Crime Prevention, Cheryl Willoughby, agreed that all stakeholders needed to work together to come up with a strategic plan to divert the youth from a path of crime.
“When you look at crime from a theoretical perspective, you will understand that crime is not a police problem. Crime was not created by the police; neither will it be solved by the police,” she told Barbados TODAY. “Crime is a social problem, and so, to get to the cause of crime, you have to address those underlying factors that are permeating the society.”
At his Press conference back in August, the Acting Police Commissioner said Barbados continued to battle the perennial problem of criminals getting inside help to bring illegal weapons into the country. Griffith appealed to the public for help to fight the issue.
“Yes, there are indications that persons might well have been assisted in getting these arms into the country. That has always been an issue. We are trying to work closer with the other agencies involved in security . . . as well as other entities to lessen that,” Griffith asserted. “We are looking to a greater community effort in those areas where teams of officers will be dedicated to some of those tough areas to work alongside the residents.
“There are good people in some of those communities. Some find it very difficult to speak out; so we have to be there for them.”
Meanwhile, chairperson of Crimestoppers Barbados, Julie Dash, has praised the RBPF for its work during 2014. She described the year as a successful one for the charity organization, which works closely with the Barbados Police Force.
Last week, the police chief reported that crime had dropped to an unprecedented 15 per cent.