Full Disclosure
November 16, 2007
Another look at crime in SVG

It is becoming extremely apparent today that a pledge to fight crime and the causes of crime is always well placed: on any political sheet of promises; an address delivered by anyone in the upper echelon in the Police Service; a student assembly at a secondary school or college or even in a Sunday or Saturday church sermon.{{more}}

What then is crime and what is deviance? To deviate means to stray from an accepted path. In other words, deviance consists of those acts which do not follow the norms and expectations of a particular social group. Crime on the other hand refers to those activities that break the law of the land and are subject to official punishment.

When one brings his or her mind to bear on the number of homicide related deaths for the year, it begs the question as to whether we are searching in the right direction for the correct answer. Firstly, is the problem solvable? Secondly, is it the situation that there is a breakdown in certain critical structures of our society such as the family and the church, which is causing us to be thrown into a dark period of our existence as it relates to crime? Are the police force, or the government, and by government I refer to both the majority party and the opposition, really the best options to lead the process of crime reduction? Probably one may agree and rightfully so that the real answers reside in our grass root organisations, in early childhood development, Sunday and Sabbath school and other similar institutions.

In assessing current trends in crime rate statistics, there is an interesting analysis which I would like to share which may have some merit. It is again in the form of a question. Isn’t it a plausible deduction, and one which is highly probable, that the better the government policies are as it relates to fighting crime, and the more dedicated the police service is to the process, that the probability will be greater that they will detect more criminal activities? Therefore, what may be reflected in the books as an increase in criminal activities may really be a calculation of the successes obtained from the properly channeled efforts of the police to highlight those engaging in criminal activities.

For instance, with an extremely high powered team of experts in the Financial Investigation Unit (FIU), it is highly probable that there will be a spike in criminal reported activities of a financial nature. Is this to reflect that there has been an increase in financial crimes such as money laundering, or is it a reflection that many of these criminal activities had gone unchecked? It is often the case that financial crimes such as money laundering are linked to other offences such as drug trafficking, people trafficking, embezzlement, terrorism and the like. To this end one investigation into what may appear to be a simple money laundering matter may very well lead one to a nest of criminals. Should advancements effected by astute policing be regarded at any point in time to reflect a notion that there has been some increase in criminal activities? The correct translation of this may really be that there has been an increase in reported cases and in some instances a greater level of success in the prosecution of these matters. It must always be noted that any concerted fight against crime which is successful would naturally be reflected by an increase in the number of reported cases. So is crime really on the increase then? In the circumstances of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, this may very well be answered in the negative or the affirmative according to what side of the prism you are placing your emphasis.

Nevertheless, what is more important is that we address the question of whether we can pinpoint the causes of the problem at hand. Determining the causes of crime has been a task that has exhausted the minds of some of our most brilliant minds. Attorneys, teachers, nurses, farmers, counselors and care givers of all sorts, have failed to formulate that ideal cocktail that will zap crime and deviance smack in the centre. It is in this regard that it may be very appropriate to advance the position that there is great need for extensive empirical research in this area, particularised to our local circumstances, if we are to obtain a comforting measure of success in crime solving.

Stiffer penalties without more will not prevent an individual from wanting to rob their fellowmen. The legal framework has been strengthened with amendments to the Firearms Act, but it appears that reports of gun related crimes are on the increase. Sending more persons to the prison should not be seen as a long term solution. Placing a mobile police station in particular areas alone may only cause potential criminals to move to different areas, but this will not necessarily result in a real reduction in criminal activities or deviant behaviour.

In measuring our success or failure thus far, we must ask ourselves the question as to whether we have employed the correct means of solving the problem. Has there been a study done to find out if criminal activities are conducted mainly by repeated offenders, and who these offenders are, and by what means we can target these persons in terms of rehabilitating them? Is our prison system really working as an instrument to rehabilitate? If not, what are we missing? My previous work at the office of the Director of Public Prosecution revealed to me that most of the offenders today have an extremely long history of crime. This is most evident at bail hearings where a booklist length of pages of previous convictions stands behind the names of many applicants for bail. Is it possible to pressure these persons into conformity?

In conclusion, it is very easy to give credit for the delivery of a modern coast guard vessel and its effective usage, and that may very well be the reason why so many successful drug interceptions are being made in our waters. It is quite possible that the increase in training and education of police personnel, for instance, the recently concluded Senior Constables training course, will lead to more successful investigation and prosecution of matters, again bringing the alleged criminals into the spotlight. It is possible also that the erection of several modern Police stations and the equipping of the Police Force over the past five years with several new vehicles and modern telecommunications equipment is to be credited for many of the on-land interceptions that we read about in our newspapers and hear in the news each day. It should therefore be clear in ones mind now, that whenever there is an effective implementation of a policy to be tough on crime and the causes of crime, that it is expected to reveal more of the underworld than we even thought had existed. This must in no way be misapprehended that Vincentians are becoming far less loyal and loving citizens.