Ever vigilance with crime; panic never!
Recent gun-related violence has understandably caused some alarm among law-abiding Barbadians and possibly visitors to these shores as well.
We daresay that no one who appreciates law and order, and understands the negative picture that may be painted by such lawless activity, is likely to take the recent spate of shootings lightly.
But if history may be used as a gauge, we must reassure Barbadians that though they must be ever vigilant, there is no need for them to panic.
Whenever there is a spike in crime in this island, some wring their hands in anguish, others delude themselves that it is unprecedented, while a few, with votes on their minds and power on their horizons, seek to score cheap political points. But truth be told, we have passed this road before.
At no juncture over the past 30 or 40 years has the Royal Barbados Police Force failed to wrestle violent antisocial criminality to the ground. And we are confident that once more Acting Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith and the members of his organization will succeed in bringing criminal elements to justice. History speaks loudly for itself.
We have had reigns of would-be terror visited on this island since the days of Buddy Brathwaite, Errol “Mopsy” Farrell, Mark Young, Alfred Harding, Ryan “Woggy” Clarke, Barry “Barry Jack” Moore, Don Grazettes –– all of whom have retreated into the Great Beyond –– among others. The mid-1980s were marked by a period where Vincentian national Moulton Charles, now serving a life sentence in Her Majesty’s Prisons Dodds, terrorized innocent women for months as he racked up more than a dozen rapes.
The mid-1980s were also marked by a period where several plantation homes in the north of the island were the subject of vicious attacks, two of which led to the respective deaths of Cyril Sisnett at Francia Plantation and Gerald Palmer, proprietor of Clifton Hall Plantation. The list of miscreants who have made themselves public enemies is long. Barbados is indeed a paradise, but the devil has always lurked among us.
To the credit of our often maligned law enforcers, those who have sought to undermine the social fabric of the island have always been brought to justice. Those who seek to do so in today’s Barbados will also find their comeuppance.
But the question still remains. How and why do we so often arrive at this stage of wanton criminality?
The blame has been placed at the doorsteps of the drug trade, unemployment, a sense of nihilism among our youth, failure of the church, the education system, a breakdown in family, television, North American influences, returning or deported nationals, a disconnect between law enforcers and society, and a host of other causes.
Of course, there is merit in most, if not all of these, with commissioned studies of all sorts giving opinions on causes and solutions before collecting dust in the cellar of some state office.
But statistics coming from our law courts will show instances of persons on the wrong side of our justice system coming from solid family backgrounds and possessed of better-than-average educational achievement. Information from the Government Statistical Department is likely to indicate that there have been spikes in crime in Barbados in periods when unemployment figures were in single digits.
Checks with social agencies, the media, and other sources, are likely to uncover several success stories of individuals who came from humble, deprived backgrounds with minimal academic achievement, but were never tempted into criminal behaviour.
Fighting against and discouraging criminal behaviour is no easy task. And perhaps those charged with the responsibility of facilitating the development of young minds should pay more attention to our educational system. We will never eradicate crime, and there will always be spurts of varying degrees of lawless behaviour. But the effort to address these at the root must never wane.
There is a school of thought that the structure of our educational system is creating ghettos in the island and frustrating young minds into antisocial behaviour. The systems employed at all of our schools are too heavily biased towards academic study. This often leads to frustration, early disenchantment, dropouts and a search for a more friendly atmosphere, away from the derision of the school setting that can be harsh for those considered not too “bright”.
Perhaps we can develop institutions at the secondary level that are focused primarily on technical skills, music, agriculture, mechanics, and the like, with English and arithmetic being the only foundation requirements. Families and teachers who pay attention to the development of their children from the primary school stage should be in a position to identify the specific leanings of their offspring.
Why force certain subjects down the throats of students who have neither the aptitude nor attitude for them? Too often these children see themselves as failures because they are completely lost in the world of physics, chemistry, French, and such study. There is no template that will eradicate crime from our shores, and we must never tire of seeking solutions to deal with the scourge. But if there is one constant that we should accept, it is that panic should never be our response.