COLUMN – Together against all crime
I live in a neighbourhood where the residents have got together to keep an eye out for one another in light of the upsurge in criminality. Using WhatsApp, we keep each other informed whenever there is a perceived threat, or there are signs of suspicious activity.
Over the past months, the watchfulness has worked, and while at times suspicious activity has turned out to be innocent , it has certainly created an awareness among households of being more cautious of their surroundings and not taking anything for granted.
I am sure other neighbourhoods across Barbados have got together in a similar way to look out for each other. And those of you who haven’t, it is advised that you seriously do.
Neighbourhood Watches have been around for a while, and the Royal Barbados Police Force highly recommends that all neighbourhoods implement such. The Neighbourhood Watch, or whatever practice a particular neighbourhood chooses, will certainly go a long way in reducing the incidents of crime, and help to prevent criminals from creating fear and panic among law-abiding citizens. These Watches also help the police, as limited resources certainly hamper effective responses, especially at a time when there is increased criminal activity.
I have grown up hearing that “crime does not pay”, and while this slogan is expected to send a message to criminals that whatever gain they perceive they can obtain from doing a crime, ultimately it would be much more of a loss when caught, it has resonated in the ears of many other persons over the years, bolstering their choice of not entering a life of crime, regardless of their situation.
It would appear that while the slogan today has an impact on some, a growing number of people now seem oblivious to it. What drives a person to commit criminal acts? It’s a question that will have many answers, and will consume researchers for years to come.
I am certain we can find many factors in our society that cause an individual to engage in crime. Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite has recently expressed concern at the level of crime taking place in Barbados and across the region. There seems to be greater emphasis on the “free movement” of people in the Caribbean than on ensuring the toing and froing of desirable persons among the islands.
The Attorney General made the point that “the region could no longer afford to be reactionary in terms of [its] response to crime” and that there must be “a targeted and unified response”.
I agree that we cannot continue to have knee-jerk reactions to crime. We must all work together in getting rid of criminal activity as best we can. Crime must be stamped out at all levels for justice to truly prevail.
It cannot be a case where the so-called “smaller fish” are punished to the fullest extent of the law, while the “big fish” are allowed to get away with a mere slap on the wrist. This in itself projects a view that crime can pay and justice is blind.
Furthermore, law enforcement agencies cannot have discriminatory approaches to dealing with suspected criminal behaviour. As has to be protested oft-times in the United States, it must never be that one is targeted or unfairly profiled on the basis of race, religion or economic standing.
With crime on the increase, our small countries with fragile economies can least afford to lose the battle to the criminals. Further, criminals are seemingly more sophisticated and more prone to violence, making it even more critical that our society collectively work at stamping out this burgeoning criminal behaviour.
There are several countries in the world at large that have effectively kept crime at a minimum level. In some cases, their punishment system would be considered harsh in today’s modern era; even criticized extensively by human rights agencies. But at the end of the day, the much maligned punishment system seems to be working for them.
In other cases, a combination of effective preventative measures, combined with an emphasis on the development and progression of all in the society, materially and spiritually, has led to communities enjoying lower levels of criminal activity. There can be no harm in studying what works in other places, as it relates to tackling crime, and seeking to implement these strategies, or further improving them to our benefit.
Barbados has over the years been able to deal with its criminal activity, so as not to let it race away. By and large, the Royal Barbados Police Force must be congratulated for this. And, public support must continue for these men and women of our force who put their lives on the line daily for the safety and security of the wider society.
Not all institutions are perfect, and so, dealing fairly with the imperfections is also important
to ensuring a better and safer society.
WhatsApp and other social media are certainly making citizens more aware of what is happening around them. In recent times, I have been getting messages almost daily warning of some danger or the other posed by a suspected criminal or group of criminals. In some cases these messages may create hysteria and unnecessary fear, but in others they are helpful, making us more vigilant and alert.
Neighbourhoods would be better off working together to combat crime and uplift their surroundings generally. We cannot expect others to do it for us.
There is strength in numbers and power in collective action; not only in combating crime but also in seeking concrete solutions to preventing the causes.
(Suleiman Bulbulia is a Justice of the Peace, and secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)