Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith and the members of the Royal Barbados Force have a huge task on their hands with respect to the current gun-related violence. Fortunately, theirs is not an insurmountable undertaking. Indeed, we believe Mr Griffith would be the first to assure Barbadians and visitors to the island that there is no need for hysteria or panic.
We are faced with a situation that should not be politicized, even though there is an element of politics to be dealt with. Many people are pointing to Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite and the police force and beseeching them to solve the problem. But that is the wrong approach. The prevalence of gun-related violence and illegal drug activity is not their problem alone to solve. This is a problem for every law-abiding citizen who has the interest of Barbados at heart and we must all contribute to the solution.
So insignificant is Barbados’ size that this island could fit into some of the smaller states of most North American, African, Asian and European countries. This ought to make Barbados easier to police. The question is: Is Barbados being properly and proactively policed? We believe the Royal Barbados Police Force does a good job of policing the island. The success rate of bringing felons to justice is comparable to, and in many cases, better than countries with greater technical resources and significantly greater manpower. However, more proactive interventions seem to be required and John Public and Government must play a major part in this area.
It is inconceivable that in such a small nation with police officers and/or their families and friends residing in every community in Barbados, that information is not always forthcoming to the Force on gun runners, drug dealers, murderers, money launderers and other miscreants.
What is quite troubling is that some degree of criminality thrives in Barbados seemingly unhindered. We ask the question – how can individuals peddle drugs in Barbados, accumulate great monetary wealth and property, have no visible or known means of income, and remain untouched in a country where there is the rule of law? How is this being monitored not only by the Force, but also by an agency such as the Barbados Revenue Authority? How is Barbados’ Financial Intelligence Unit functioning with respect to drug dealers in Barbados ‘washing’ their ill-gotten gains through legitimate commercial enterprises such as restaurants, taxis, stores and other investments? Is intelligence being collected and if it is, what is being done with it?
We have previously heard Mr Griffith’s take on Grantley Adams International Airport and the Bridgetown Port and the intelligence gathered that suggests guns enter the island through these points. He clearly is not satisfied with the level of security there, even as Government fails to show leadership on the installation of cameras at the Bridgetown Port and the National Union of Public Workers seemingly buries its head in the sand on the issue. But we would also like Mr Griffith to indicate whether he is satisfied with the border security at locations such as Port St Charles and Port Ferdinand. Does he have any similar concerns about these locations?
We are advised that the Resident Beat programme introduced in Barbados in the 1980s is now not as vibrant as it was then, if it at all exists anymore. This was a programme that reaped much success two to three decades ago in terms of building community support for the police as well as gathering important intelligence on matters that could lead to the interdiction of persons involved in serious criminality. What has become of that initiative?
And what about uniform and plainclothes foot patrols in communities across the island? This was a feature of policing in the 1970s, 1980s and the 1990s. Today both diurnal and nocturnal foot patrols in our villages have basically become a 2000s anachronism. Again, it is somewhat perplexing that in such a tiny dot of a country where law enforcement officers, inclusive of court marshals, are to be found living among us from St Lucy to St Michael and St James to St John, that persons are bailed, never return to court, yet walk the streets and continue their criminal enterprise. Then, some are wanted by one court but bailed by another, and it goes on and on.
The deployment of resources is another area that needs to be examined in the fight against crime. The Royal Barbados Police Force has a complement of more than 2 000 and calls have been made for an increase. But do we need more police officers or better deployment?
The Juvenile Liaison Scheme and the Barbados Youth Service play excellent interventionist roles with our young people. Yet, one is under-staffed and the other under-funded and without a home. Surely, it is better to stop young people from turning to guns than waiting to appeal to them to put their weapons down.
But, let us first start by exposing the gunman and drug dealer that lives next door.