More violent incidents shook the country during the course of this week as the murder toll for this year so far exceeded the whole of last year’s, leaving Barbadians further concerned over worrying crime levels and the general direction of the country.
Some have been using the power of social media to try to spread the message of peace. The hash tag #peaceforBim has been trending since a double homicide in Marley Vale, St Philip, a stabbing incident, a brutal cutlass attack on two women by a man, and reports of gun play which all occurred this week alone.
Adding to the already grim situation, graphic photos of the murder victims and the severed hands from the cutlass attack have been circulating on social media, in particular Whatsapp, prompting officials to issue a fresh appeal for the culprits to desist from those practices.
Also this week, a former Barbados Government criminologist predicted that the crime situation will get worse if the authorities fail to adopt a different approach to crime fighting. Declaring that she was not surprised at the worrying level of gun violence in the country, Yolande Forde said the continued reliance on jailing young people was not the answer to the crime problem.
She in 1997 produced a report entitled Criminal Risk Factors containing 20 recommendations which she submitted to Government. “You asked if it [the report] is still relevant. To a large measure it is and in large measure a lot of the recommendations there seems not be have been implemented because I would see other areas of the press calling for the same things that I called for 20 years ago. If your priority recommendations have not been addressed, then why are we expecting a different result?” Forde said.
The criminologist had great support from a reader who said, “Change has to be implemented at the school level. Teaching children civil duties and responsibility, aid their understanding of the importance of participating in a society to its betterment. Bringing babies into the world with no real hopes to a means of survival is stupid. That’s the main problem!”
Another reader suggested, “Police need to set up outposts in all areas around Barbados, invest in more mobile vans, instead of SUVs and Jeeps, bring out the mounted division also, ride and walk through the neighborhoods and familiarize themselves with the citizens and learn who is who and what is what to make people feel safe again.”
Meanwhile, the Attorney General, Adriel Brathwaite, has been facing intense political pressure following the double homicide in his home parish of St Philip. The man shadowing Brathwaite for the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) Dale Marshall, and the leader of Barbados Integrity Movement (BIM) Neil Holder said Brathwaite was asleep at the wheel while the country’s safety and security careened towards a precipice.
Police reported that 21-year-old Kyle Rico “Sad Boy” Burgess and 23-year-old Renaldo Gittens, both of East Point, St Philip, were shot and killed as they were liming with a group. Gunshots erupted, causing the crowd to flee in panic. It was not immediately clear who was behind the shooting
Apart from the upset contributors on the call-in programmes and online platform, many of the island’s policymakers have been criticized for their handling of the worsening crime situation by United Progressive Party (UPP) leader Lynette Eastmond. She charged that some politicians are protecting people involved in crime, making them untouchable.
“Apparently, it seems to be an open secret in Barbados now that there are some people who can commit crimes and never spend a day in jail. But someone with a five bag of weed could get thrown into jail,” she charged at a political meeting in St Barnabas, St Michael.
“There are some of us who never cared about injustice in Barbados once it did not affect us and once it did not affect our family. We did not care that a telephone call could be made and a police officer could be told, ‘you see that man that you just pick up across the block, go and put him exactly on the block where you took him from’. That kind of thing happens in Barbados.”
One online reader alleged, “Corruption is rampant in Barbados. It’s rampant all over the world. At least she’s saying what most people are afraid to say out loud. Even if she’s now speaking up for political reasons, who cares? She’s still speaking the truth and she’s the one taking the risk to do so. Give her some credit for having the balls to say what a lot of you Bajans already know.”
“If the authorities don’t stop burying their heads in the sand, our little nation will be worse for it. Forget about what others say and do what is necessary. When taxes and other measures have to be implemented, supposedly for the benefit of the nation, we are given no choice. By that same token, do what is necessary to address this madness now. Some measures appear difficult because of treaties and other agreements being signed, but in the final analysis, we have to do what is in the best interest of Barbados.
Another commenter said: “These heinous acts don’t only affect local lives directly, but indirectly as well as tourism and foreign investment will be negatively impacted. We as Barbadians need to be adamant in our calls and demands for justice and stop using psychological, educated excuses to give these thugs and their cohorts reasons for doing what they do, much to our detriment.”