I am deeply saddened by the surge of crime in Barbados. I spent years as a senior probation officer in the United States both at the state and federal levels. I have handled various cases with juveniles, gangs, sexual crimes, murder/manslaughter, drug and economic crimes etc. Some cases were very large and quite complex.
During my visits to Barbados, I have noticed numerous problems that I believe, based on my training, education and experience, may be causing or contributing to the violence. I have listed them below.
Please understand I am not criticizing, I am only offering solutions if they have not been previously explored.
1. A proactive rather than a reactive plan by the police department:
The island needs community patrols by police officers in inner city/high density areas. Police officers need to be walking the beat. It allows them to be aware of issues before they occur. Residents will have a special relationship with the officers and will feel compelled to report issues prior to major crisis.
During my many visits to Barbados, I had the privilege of seeing police officers walking the beat, but they were in areas frequented by tourists. I think that is great, however, the inner city areas critically need police presence. Residents can provide information to the familiar face on the beat to ward off violence.
2. Having high poverty centralized areas that are neglected:
The Westbury Road, Black Rock, Deacons Road, Eagle Hall, Brandons & Brandons Beach areas are highly congested with low-income/high-density housing. Government appears to be in support of creating more multi-dwelling, low-income housing in these areas.
It has come to my attention that on Deacons Road at the top of the road by Mount Gay Rum Distillery, new high-density, low-income housing is proposed on Government-owned land. Bad idea because the Government is creating more crime hot spots.
Studies have showed that in New York, Chicago, Atlanta and Miami, to name a few US cities, housing projects have a negative effect and crime increases.
These cities have chosen to abandon the idea of low-income, high-density housing. Now low-income residents are dispersed throughout various communities. In Barbados, housing for low-income residents should not be concentrated, but should be scattered around the island near public transportation resources. Children need to be raised in areas where they can experience a cross section of residents of various economic levels, not just low-income residents like them. The areas I mentioned above are deeply neglected. It almost appears as if Government is using these areas as dumping grounds. The end result will be centralized crime zones that will produce criminals who will victimize residents of the entire island, and seriously hinder the financial stability of Barbados due to a decrease in tourist visits.
Many tourists pass through these areas; they come from the cruise ships, visit Mount Gay Rum and Malibu Rum facilities, and attend Brandons Beach events. In my opinion, Brandons Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches on the island, and I know there are residents who would like to feel safe and create environments were overseas visitors can stay. Right now, that can’t happen in that neighborhood current state. Off Spring Garden Highway, I have seen drugs being sold on occasions in broad daylight. I am very puzzled by that. This is an area where its residents are heavily inconvenienced during Crop Over festivities. These festivities bring economic benefits to Barbados, yet the area is neglected when it comes to resources such as police presence, crime enforcement, and other resources. I understand the police force is small, but it appears the police department and the Government pay more attention to the wealthy areas while neglecting the high-stressed inner city areas. Creating areas of “have nots” allows criminal activities to prevail and magnify. If this area was cleaned up and safer, it could bring even more economic benefit to the island.
3. Parents should be held accountable:
Juveniles under the age of 18 should be under the supervision of parents. If parents do not report issues with their children to service agencies so help can be obtained, parents should also be held responsible for crimes their juveniles committed. It is important for agencies to work hand in hand with parents to assist them with obtaining services for their problematic children. This will call for schools, neighbours and churches to report problems they suspect to a designated agency.
4. Creating resources to identify the productive interest of youth who have chosen to join gangs:
Gangs gain members because youth want to belong to something that they believe is bigger than them. They join to get attention from the leader because they may not be getting the attention at home or the parental figure in the household is not willing to listen to the potential gang member’s concerns. Many young gang members are just seeking attention which leads them into a life of crime. These youth and young adults will need intervention to find out what is lacking in their lives, and counseling to include anger control. For example, a 16-year-old I supervised on house arrest was arrested over 30 times for Grand Theft Auto. I got to know him, and realized he was bored at home and at school, so he stopped attending school and joined a gang. He stole cars and was good at it because he liked disengaging the alarm system, and the rush or high he felt from having control. I enrolled him in electronics courses, and he obtained a job with a car alarm company. A few years later, he started a company which became very successful. He turned his life around. There were many other situations like that.
5. The judicial laws of the land: Barbados’ laws/sentences are too weak. I read Barbados’ newspapers daily, and I am stunned by fines and community service that are of no deterrence. How does an accused pay a fine when he/she is not working, and has committed numerous burglary and entry offences? Where will they get the money, except to commit another crime? The punishment does not fit the crimes. I think Barbados needs to look at electronic house arrest to monitor some of the criminals that it is just letting free, if it has not already done so. The tracking system will also show if they are in locations associating with other known criminals. I see many Bajans are discussing the death penalty. To my knowledge it is a deterrent if the convicted criminal is not sitting on death row for over five years. It appears, the quicker the implementation of the sentence, the higher the deterrence.
In closing, I would like to say I believe the biggest problem at hand is the neglect of inner city/high-density areas by Government agencies, including the police department; Town & Country Planning and various social service agencies. Neglecting these areas is like neglecting the island as a whole. It does not appear the Government is placing much resources in these areas. However, many of these same areas are heavily impacted by events and tourist locations that greatly enhance the economic viability of Barbados. For example, Brandons Beach and the numerous festivities it holds, but resources are not provided to the residents there. More resources need to be placed in these areas.
Illegal use of firearms and drugs can cause the downfall of a nation. Attention must paid to what is driving youth/young adults to have a need to use them. As I stated before, I am not criticizing in anyway, I am attempting to offering solutions to a serious problem.