Social activist and former Member of Parliament Hamilton Lashley wants Government to put some of the $76 million recently assigned to police into community policing.
Government in August received Parliamentary approval to borrow $76 million to finance, among other things, the construction of a new police station at Hastings, a public centre complex at Cane Garden, a police headquarters in the Pine, a police station and magistrate’s court at Boarded Hall, repairs to the old male barracks at the Central Police Station and the former Black Rock Police Station.
However, in his contribution to a panel discussion on, Combating Crime and Violence in Our Communities held at Restoration Ministries, Britton’s Hill, St Michael on Wednesday night, Lashley argued that crime was at its lowest when community policing was at its most effective.
“The $76 million that is being allocated to the Royal Barbados Police Force, part of it should be allocated to the community arm of the Royal Barbados Police Force . . . We tend now to put the resources behind the action arm, when a crime happens send in the men in blue.
“We could prevent a crime from happening by having a holistic social intervention programme, involving the church, the community,” the former Minister of Social Transformation said.
Lashley also took a shot at the business sector, which he said must be involved in the anti-crime fight, describing local businesses as “the real escape artists of Barbados, because they only put resources into what could benefit their business”.
Retired head teacher Matthew Farley chaired the panel which also comprised National Assistance Board Director Charyn Wilson, Government Senator Verla De Peiza, Senior Pastor at Messiah’s House Reverend Paul Watson and the Criminal Justice Department’s Research and Planning Unit Director Cheryl Willoughby.
In setting the scene Farley contended that Barbados’ criminal landscape had changed drastically, arguing that Barbadians could either compare themselves with other countries “and say we are not that bad”, or they could face the reality that crime posed a major threat to society.
Meantime, Watson persisted with the theme of community policing while highlighting the link between economically deprived communities and crime.
“Is it a coincidence that the highest unemployment is in the same group that much of the gun violence is associated with? I don’t think it is a coincidence. I think we are going through a period of economic downturn and the worst affected is that group of young people between the ages of 15 to 35,” Watson said.
Among the recommended solutions proposed by the other panellists was an element of community-led solutions to crime.
“This is a problem that Barbados has to face with, and as people of Barbados we have to work collectively to deal with these issues concerning our young people,” suggested Willoughby.
De Peiza added that crime was an issue of governance and structures had to be put in place to address the needs of the population. She also called for reform of the education system to ensure it produces functionally literate and numerate citizens who can make a positive contribution to the country.
“We talk about the village raising a child; yes that is important, but we also have to consider how we educate our children.
“As a defence criminal attorney it is too often that I go to the police station to assist a young man and to discover in the course of our dealing that he has been through our education system from beginning to end, from the age of three to 16, and can neither read nor write comprehensively,” De Peiza said.