The island’s largest public sector trade union is calling for a national discussion on crime and violence, as the country battles to come to grip with a spate of gun crimes.
So serious is the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) about the crime talks that General Secretary Roslyn Smith has revealed that she presented the idea to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart ahead of Friday’s meeting of the Social Partnership, which is expected to discuss economic matters, including the vexing National Social Responsibility Levy.
“That is what we will be looking forward to . . . a discussion on that. It is not a one off thought,” Smith said in the wake on the Monday’s shootings during Grand Kadooment, which resulted in the death of a 20-year-old man and injuries to approximately 20 people.
Most of the blame for the rising crime has been directed at the island’s youth.
Smith told Barbados TODAY the authorities ought to consider programmes which cater to young people.
“[There is a need] to find out from them what their concerns are . . . so that [everyone] would be in a position then to assess the information going forward with a view of getting recommendations that would try to stem the violence and crime in Barbados.” Smith stated.
“There are a number of things that have to be put in place and it is an ongoing saga. It starts to deal with education, with the concerns of the youth. You have to give them a forum or get someone to represent their views. It is not a one off situation,” the NUPW general secretary added.
While it is not immediately clear how many illegal guns can be found on the streets of Barbados, the sheer number of these weapons that are readily available remain a concern for law enforcement officials.
Acting Commissioner of Police has stated in the past that customs officers were wittingly or unwittingly allowing illegal guns into the country.
This has reignited calls for cameras to be installed at the ports of entry.
However, Smith said this was not the answer, stressing that with a porous coastline, Government needed to furnish lawmen with adequate resources in order for them to execute their responsibilities effectively.
“The [Royal Barbados Police Force] and other entities, they’re the ones that should be leading in any investigation and updating us in terms of what the findings are and where they are. We have pockets all over and it needs either updating the police department with the necessary technology and staffing levels to do policing and things like that if we are going to wrestle this thing to the ground,” Smith said.
Close to 48 hours after Monday’s shooting Prime Minister Freundel Stuart suggested that there was a battle on for the survival of Barbados, adding that there seemed to be two systems of justice operating in Barbados and one of them must be eliminated.
“One thing is very clear to me; if those who say gun violence is an incident of the drug trade and the existence of gangs in Barbados, it is clear that we now have two justice systems running parallel with each other,” he said in a statement released this evening through the Barbados Government Information Service.
The incident evoked much public outcry with Minister of Culture Minister Stephen Lashley, who has overall responsibility for Crop Over, suggesting that the perpetrators should be made to pay with their lives.
Back in 2010, when cameras were first installed in the Customs area at Grantley Adams International Airport and the Bridgetown Port, officers posted at these locations, through their bargaining agent, the NUPW, vehemently protested the move to have monitoring devices capable of picking audio conversations in their work space.
They suggested it was an insult to them as a law enforcement agency to have another agency monitoring them on a 24-hour basis.