Our Readers' Opinions
April 23, 2013

Tourism against crime

Tue Apr 23, 2013

Editor: The region seeks a way to, once and for all, solve the burdening crime situation in our countries. Whether big or small, the vast majority of law abiding citizens cower in fear to hardened, bold criminals of petty and serious inclination that ramshackle our moral, spiritual, political, social and economic well-being. In some quarters, it is perceived that from development springs an unwelcomed stream of vagabond and violent tendencies. In the region, this theory holds in the capitals of Kingston, Jamaica and Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, to name just a few. However, the weekly headlines that emanate from the small OECS countries paint the same horror stories of societies perplexed and wearied by the fight against crime and the causes of crime. In the less developed countries, it is felt that the “lack of economic opportunities” creates this social evil. The truth must lie somewhere in between.{{more}}

For years, governments of all colours, race and stripes have come and gone, but Laventille, Trinidad, remains a den of “hopelessness”. Mothers and daughters, young men and non-gang members shudder at the coming of dusk and in recent times, the falling of dawn, as the streets drink the blood of another fallen victim. Whether innocent or guilty, one murder is unacceptably high. The medicating prescriptions implemented over the years have been “plaster to sore”. As soon as the speaker boxes from the rallies are removed, the last marcher of the community peace march departs or the mobile police units are shuttered, the criminal elements retake their old guard.

At the halls of justice and in our parliaments, the blood raises voices at high octaves for the recall of the death penalty. “Give them an ole Ramesh Maharaj hanging” is often faintly whispered under the breaths of men who have lost their creative brain power or have given up hope that we will ever understand the complexity of man to the degree that we can have a society strongly based on the rule of law and not of men. But, often, between the lines, we read reports of the cosy, amicable relationships many politicians (including leaders) hold with these “thugs” and criminal enterprises. In Jamaica, it is believed that the two main gangs are, inter alia, political partisans. Such confusion of moral vacillation by our politicians continues to diminish the implements to solve crime.

But crime does not only owe its origin and/or perpetuation to our leaders, for the perpetrators are also products of our society, sons and daughters of fathers and mothers in our communities. It does not take the world’s most gifted sociologist to conclude what the layman already knows, “criminals are moulded by their immediacy – home, school, community and society”. In our homes, children are abused, many remain indigent, families are broken and dysfunctional and often there is a cruel axiom of “do as I say and not as I do”. This extenuating depression of lost innocence is replicated at all levels contributing to wider societal norms of inequality and resource distribution that fundamentally seek to uphold our one law, that is, the protection of private property. The resultant consequences have been the rich have continued to get richer while the poorer share less in our collective economic gains.

This is not an excuse for crime, because greed is another important factor. However, it goes back to how we “nurture” our children and how we strengthen their resolve to live in a world that is wholly hypocritical. Moreover, especially today, our children are confronted with a media-hyped psyche of “casino capitalism,” without the means to achieve these material ends. So, I am excited that among ourselves, we continue to strive for ways of arresting the situation that does not involve hanging or locking everyone behind bars that reinforces the status quo and turns our young men into seasoned criminals. As such, I greeted The Newsday newspaper of April 20th with glee. Social development planning consultant Karen Bart-Alexander offered a novel suggestion when she stated “we speak of tourism as a tool of economic development and as a tool for conservation, and I would really like to see us speak more about tourism as a tool for personal transformation and human development”.

We have to keep trying to seek a permanent breakthrough in solving the scourge of crime and violence in our societies. All the development emphasis of nation building can be easily undermined if the minority criminal elements among us terrify us to the outermargins of our societies. We cannot be content to argue crime in our newspapers and on radio call-in programmes, while we adopt a “did not see” attitude when the investigating officers solicit our assistance and at times ignorantly talk about our son Jack “as a good boy who means well,” even after his second shooting incident. On the other hand, the police have to develop a more professional approach to crime fighting in the 21st century. Our regional crime fighting infrastructure remains weak, crime labs non-existent or in some countries below qualifying standards, personnel selected from a pool of last resort applicants, instead of passion and commitment to crime fighting and the growing problem of “criminals in uniforms”.

Thus, the call by Bart-Alexander to use tourism as a tool is another approach that we must try. However, transforming depressed communities into “model cities” that are focussed on human and development undertaking will no doubt have its critics. The “slum” has always been short of sustained intervention, but plenty of talk. In St Vincent and the Grenadines, a ‘pan against crime’ initiative was implemented to capture young people, but nothing as bold and definitive that is “transformational”. It is only this transformation that will allow the idea of “turning crime hotspots into tourism spots” to work, because in the current paradigm, the best tourist site will not attract the most “careless” of tourists. Crime prone areas may not all be amenable to a tourism project as suggested in Laventille, but other transformational ideas such as expanding an industry base, building factories, relocating communities etc may prove just as potent.

To be bold and to seriously address crime and violence throughout our nation, we will have to bite the bullet and do what is unpopular. We will have to disrupt these communities where criminals hide in the shadows and are protected by those who cower by their threats. Transformational development can dislodge those territories that are demarcated for one gang over another with new buildings and physical infrastructure. Unless we do this, we

will never stop reading about another record-breaking crime year, Singing Sandra will never stop singing ‘dead songs to our sons’ and our collective development would have suffered from internal haemorrhaging.

Adaiah J Providence-Culzac

Comments at: cemsvg@gmail.com