All idle talk won’t scare trigger-happy
If there were any doubts that Barbados was becoming a gun-crazy, crime-infested country, then throw you mind back to the last week. We ended with four shootings resulting in one death and more than half a dozen injuries.
And as it was at the end last week, so was it at the beginning of this week, with more gunfire disturbing whatever peace that was left on Spring Garden Highway last night. As was the case on Thursday night, when 29-year-old primary school teacher Dwight Holder was killed at Bedford Lane, Bush Hall, St Michael, last night’s victim was an innocent bystander. Luckily, his injuries were not life-threatening, but he so easily could have suffered the same fate as Holder; his family could just as easily be feeling the raw pain.
These criminals must be convinced they own this country; that they are free to terrorize Barbadians without a worry in the world.
If this latest upsurge has come as a surprise, maybe we have not been paying attention. We should have recognized the omen or great portent of death when the New Year began with the murder of Jason Carter, 31, at Vauxhall No. 1, Christ Church.
There are times when it appears we are intent on our own degradation and destruction. This is one of those times: a period when this beautiful Barbados, the gem of the Caribbean Sea, makes us despair.
But Barbados is a proud, Independent nation with a distinct sense of its own values and traditions, and these values certainly do not include marauding gangs of criminals and psychopaths taking over our streets, our neighbourhoods, our country. And try as they might, we ought not to cede territory to these deranged killers, lurking in the shadows of our communities, pouncing on the innocent, ready to inflict pain and misery on entire families.
Something has to be done; and it must be done now! And we can’t approach this troubling issue like a bunch of gormless people, with no idea what to do.
Actually, sometimes we get the sense that this is exactly the case; that the people who swore to protect us really have no workable answers.
We shudder to think what will happen in future; what we will become, if we don’t act decisively to reverse this vicious attack on everything Barbadian. For this is what this lethal violence that hangs over us truly is.
Often we hear the police announce crime-fighting initiatives –– remedies that have been anything but efficacious. Of course, every so often a Government minister will talk about zero tolerance for crime. The police have our sympathy, for they can only do the best they can with the resources and the backing they have.
But it’s the Government which must go beyond talking, since talk of being tough on crime has been nothing but words. And the criminals know it; hence the reason they continue to flaunt their brazenness right before our eyes.
We are not experts in crime, neither are we experts in crime-fighting. Therefore, we are among the last to give advice on how to stop or, at the very least, slow this insanity.
But we can point to the success stories of others. If Government is truly serious, the police must be given the resources and the legal backing to act.
In the 1980s into the early 1990s, New York City experienced a surge in killings. The government responded with a series of measures, including flooding high crime areas with officers; providing funding, resources and technical assistance to the police; fostering enhanced partnerships among participating agencies, and giving the police the legal footing to stop and frisk people on the streets.
In one year, over 7,000 weapons were confiscated, among them 800 guns. And the results were obvious. The idea is to get to the weapons before they are used in the committing of crimes.
In 2005, Merseyside Police in Liverpool, England, launched their own version of the New York zero tolerance programme involving crackdowns on vandalism, drug-taking and fare dodging, together with monitoring and harassment of known criminals. In addition, twice a month, hundreds of police officers would flood the streets to hunt suspects who had jumped bail or those who were wanted for a particular kind of offence. By 2008 violent crime had fallen by 38 per cent, while there were steep declines in other crimes.
We are not suggesting that Barbados copies these programmes in their entirety. We are simply pointing out that there are examples out there if Government is serious about moving past idle words.
The longer this is allowed to continue, the greater the deficit of trust and, while instilling the fear of hell in us, the criminals will also likely succeed in turning us into something we are not, forcing some of us to become un-Barbadian. And this isn’t far-fetched. Already, at least one person on social media is advocating vigilantism
“We cant sít’ idly by and allow these gun toting thugs to take our family .we need some vigilantes bout here,” this person wrote.
It’s one thought expressed; we don’t know how many more have left it unsaid.
One thing we do know is that we have to find a different approach. Otherwise, if we continue to do the same thing again and again, the madness that now envelops us will continue to be the result.