Despite growing public concern over perceived increases in crime, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) said actual research into crime and violence in Barbados – its causes, incidence and effects – remained glaringly limited.
And in a new 117-page report, the Bank warned that the absence of credible crime data was affecting the quality of overall decision-making.
For example, the IDB said there was a propensity within the region for increases in crime to be met with improvements in law enforcement.
However, the IDB said regional data actually suggested that social approaches to crime prevention, of which many examples are present among crime-prevention programmes in Barbados, may well be the way forward.
“Policy decisions relating to crime reduction necessitate a continuous supply of empirical work that will give decision makers the evidence needed to make rational choices regarding possible strategies,” the Bank noted in the detailed document entitled, Crime and Violence in Barbados.
It also quoted from a 2012 Caribbean Development Bank report, which demonstrated that, based on the Country Assessment of Living Conditions, large numbers of urban and rural residents were socially excluded and shut out from mainstream society with unequal opportunities in education and employment that limited their avenues for social mobility through legitimate means.
“. . . as such illegal means become attractive,” the IDB said, warning that until these forces of exclusion were removed, the forces of criminality would fester and grow.
The IDB report also alluded to a 2007 United Nations/World Bank report which argued that improvement of socioeconomic conditions was essential to any crime-prevention/control strategy as young men must be given the opportunities for upward mobility.
However, the Bank said it was essential that an effective balance be struck between strategies aimed at addressing of these root causes of crime and violence and issues of law enforcement and increased punitive responses. It added that many of the social programmes implemented by Non-Governmental Organizations and Government agencies were unable to effectively address critical structural inequalities given that these root causes necessitated action at the policy level.
“Short- term remedies, such as improvements in law enforcement are, however, often more attractive to policymakers who are charged with the immediate reduction of crime. There is a gap, therefore, between the addressing of the root causes of violence — an approach that is favoured by academics — and the desire for immediate responses.
“This is a gap that can possibly be bridged through a greater focus by academics on the more immediate causes of crime and violence in Barbados, and thus, effective means of short-term crime prevention,” the IDB suggested, adding, “research into crime and violence needs to enjoy a more prominent position in the research agenda of Barbadian academics”.
The international report, which was completed in June 2016, but has only just been made public, is one of several recent technical studies of crime and violence in the Caribbean.
Ironically, the same deficiency in data highlighted by the IDB could also affect the overall usefulness of its own report, which has drawn its major conclusions based on data available for the early 2000s.
For instance, the Bank concluded that crimes against property and against the person had remained relatively constant over the past decade with property crimes dominating in volume over violent crimes.
Using 2013 as its base year, the IDB reported that the rate of property crime was 1,599 per 100,000, compared with a rate of 929 for crimes against person. It also said that residential burglary accounted for the overwhelming majority of crimes reported to the police with 35 per cent of all reported property crimes falling into this category in 2013.
And when it came to the rate of homicide, the IDB said although there was a slight increase in 2013 over the previous year, the rate of homicide has been declining steadily since 2010.
However, based on latest police statistics, there were 30 murders in 2015, three more than the previous year, even though Acting Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith sought to give the assurance last week that the island was the safest it has been in 15 years.
“We are actually better off statistically today than ten years ago. In fact, for the last 15 years, crime in Barbados was always annually in excess of 8,000 crimes. For the last two years, crime has been less than 8,000 and this year it’s also on track to be less as well,” the top cop said.
Griffith, who was at the time participating in a panel discussing the topic, Is Tourism Entering a New and Difficult Age? during the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s State of the Industry Conference, did not contribute very much more to the discussion, except to say that the issue now was getting visitors to accept the fact that it was safe for them to visit.
The police chief’s comments came against the backdrop of recent shootings, including the execution style murder of 46-year-old taxi driver Ricardo Anthony Bryan, who was gunned down in the car park of Lucky Horseshoe in Warrens, St Michael on September 1.
Four men — Hakeem Dishon Jeremy Griffith, 22, of Well Gap, Cave Hill, St Michael; Kiastan Hallen Clarke, 23, of 2nd Avenue, Green Hill, St Michael; Jason Shamin Blenman, 21, of Powder Road, Station Hill, St Michael and Stefan Akobi Nkosi Branch, 21, of Castries Road, Cave Hill, St Michael — have since been remanded to jail in connection with that shooting.
It followed closely on the heels of the murder of Andre Hinds who was shot and killed by gunmen who entered his home at North Thumberland, St Lucy on August 25.
Four other men have been held in connection with that murder.