January 31, 2014

Tackling factors contributing to violent crimes

Fri Jan 31, 2014

The country recorded its first homicide for 2014 during the first month of the year. And while on these matters we rightly keep close tab on statistics, we should also find the emerging methods and actions of the perpetrators equally deeply disturbing.{{more}}

It has emerged from the reports on Monday night’s fatal shooting, reported elsewhere in this newspaper, that the episode was played out in a crowded shop, confirming the view that the criminal elements in our midst are becoming increasingly brazen in the conduct of even major crimes; no longer sneaking behind the shadows or in dark alleys. Of course they are conscious of the need to protect their identity, given the popularity of the cell phone cameras and easy circulation methods via social media, and so, as was the case in Monday night’s shooting, the four gunmen reportedly wore hoodies, bandanas and wigs.

Also disturbing is the growing disregard for bystanders and passers-by. The reports from Monday’s incident show that, having completed their main objective, the gunmen proceeded to indiscriminately spray bullets into a nearby crowded shop, forcing the patrons to scamper for cover and hitting one man in his leg. The action points to a callous disregard for life generally, and not just the persons the criminals feel they have differences with – real or imagined.

Then in an age where we appear to have increased problems with conflict resolution, guns have seemingly become accessible at a rate to match the disputes, with the holders assuming the joint role of judge, jury and of course, executioner.

We have had many conversations as a nation on, not just catching and prosecuting the perpetrators for which the police have been doing a commendable job, but tackling the factors contributing to violent crimes at source. It may be necessary, in the early days of the year, and even as we undertake the mammoth reconstruction effort following the devastating December floods, that we revisit those conversations, and seek national consensus on long term, sustainable solutions. Should the efforts be school based and focused on conflict resolution? Should attention be paid to parenting education as suggested by a recent study in one of our neighbouring islands? We need multi-stakeholder dialogue while the year is young.

January closes with the homicide figure at one, but elsewhere in the region, including countries with which we have close regular contact the numbers are already causing major concerns.

Neighbouring Trinidad and Tobago has been having a difficult January with figures reaching 43 in the first 29 days, up from 36 for the same month last year. Another big Caribbean brother Jamaica is keeping pace amid concerns there that their annual figures keep surpassing the one thousand mark, 1,197 last year and 1,099 the year before. Although the numbers are fewer in the other islands, almost all have started the count for the year. Here in St Vincent and the Grenadines we reached 27 last year, an average of more than two per month.

Both the numbers and actions of the perpetrators should get our focused attention for 2014.