Businesses concerned about rising crime
In light of the recent increase in overall crime on the island, private sector officials have expressed “a high level of concern”, and have called for more focus on economic growth strategies in order to create more jobs.
Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite reported last week in Parliament that there was a 13 per cent rise in overall crime for the first six months of this year compared to the same period last year, as well as a rise in the number of gangs.
And over the past few months the island has witnessed a spate of gun violence.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY this morning, chairman of the Barbados Private Sector Association Alex McDonald said since the business sector was “not divorced from the normal community”, any increase or perceived increase in crime was a cause for concern.
“In other words, the people in the normal community are the same people in business. So when we speak about businesses we speak about small business people from the single owners of shops, vendors, the people in the creative industries, people who run big businesses and 24-hour stores. Those people are members of the community as well. And the very same concerns the members of the community are having are the same concerns they would have,” explained McDonald.
McDonald reasoned that even if there was no evidence to suggest that the increase in crime was linked to “the acquisition of money of an opportunistic basis”, there would still be fear among business operators.
He added that since business people were generating revenue they could sometimes become easy targets for criminal minds.
“Because what we are seeing now is this kind of pernicious shooting-up, attacking of people within groups that are not related to the quorum. So we do have a high level of concern,” said McDonald.
While lauding the Royal Barbados Force (RBPF) for its work in bringing criminals to justice, the private sector head also acknowledged that security companies
were being more vigilant, and some business owners were now putting safety measures in place, including installing better lighting.
“Those things should be part of their business planning and they should know that is what you should be doing anyway. But I think this is pushing them towards that,” he said.
“But we are concerned because our families are out there, our businesses are opened later.”
He complained that rising crime was forcing some business to bring forward their closing times, resulting in reduced service towards customers and a drop in revenue-making opportunities.
“It means also that if you do have visitors to the island they have less opportunity to spend money over the length of the day if people are closing early. So we do have a concern,” McDonald repeated, adding that the private sector was willing to assist the RBPF and all stakeholders in finding answers to the problem.
Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer of the Small Business Association (SBA) Lynette Holder told Barbados TODAY she was aware of the concerns of many workers in establishments that opened late at nights, including service stations.
She said that conversations with SBA members, especially those in tourism related establishments and businesses that deal with a lot of cash, revealed they were worried about the crime situation on the island.
“Any retailer is increasingly concerned in this environment because at the end of the night they have to lock up; they have to find a mechanism to treat to that cash and try and deposit after the day’s take-ins and so on . . . we have some tourism-related firms and they are obviously concerned relative to the social implications for the tourism product,” she explained.
Holder was adamant that there is a correlation between poor economic performance in a country and an increase in crime, and she suggested that policymakers focus more on economic growth strategies.
“To me you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand this. So this thing about focusing on the society and not the economy is utter nonsense. You must have a strong and vibrant economy and as you do so, that economic growth will give you the resources to finance social development programmes and so on. When you have employment opportunities people will be able to seek good jobs . . . when you get good jobs within the economy then the propensity to turn to crime is reduced,” insisted Holder.