More police, more courts, more judges and more firepower will not arrest Barbados’ spiralling crime problem, and neither can the country look to the political directorate for answers, social activist and attorney-at-law David Comissiong has advised.
Instead, he proposed, the authorities should focus on prevention to tackle the scourge.
“If we try to cure the crime situation through more police, more military equipment for police, more magistrates, more courts, more judges, more prisons, it will bankrupt, overwhelm and destroy this society . . . . We simply would not have enough material resources to solve the problem through that kind of methodology,” he said today at a press briefing hosted by the September 3rd Foundation at the Clement Payne Centre, cautioning that the current strategy of searching for a cure was likely to backfire.
“We have to deal with problems like this through prevention rather than cure.”
Suggesting that the island was in a “profound and deeply rooted crisis”, the outspoken activist said there was more behind the upsurge in gun violence than meets the eye.
He blamed the vexing problem, which has sparked a strong outcry from the public for Government to do more, on a “civilization crisis”.
“The crime that we are experiencing is a symptom of the fact that our social, political, cultural, psychological trajectory as a nation is wrong. More and more, we have drifted into a way of thinking and feeling that says it is just about me and my family and if I and my family are ok, then to hell with the rest.
“We have drifted into a way of thinking and feeling where a person is respected and recognized not on the basis of their basic humanity but on the basis of the size of the car that they drive or which gated community they live in or whether they are part of the ‘in group,’” Comissiong said.
Noting that the crisis was also manifesting itself in neighbouring Caribbean countries, including St Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and The Bahamas, Comissiong pointed out that the crime scourge was not a factor in Cuba where the value system was far different.
“In that society, there are no homeless or vagrants because that society has put a premium on Cuban solidarity. Every human being is entitled to be housed, to be fed, to be clothed, to be educated . . . . It is not a society where we have the ‘haves and have nots’, where we have the social winners and the social losers,” he contended.
Comissiong was adamant that the solution did not reside with politicians, as he took issue with Member of Parliament for St Michael West Central James Paul for pouring doubt on recent revelations from Acting Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith that as many as 14 gangs existed in the Black Rock community, a trouble spot in the constituency that Paul represents.
“If we are serious, shouldn’t the parliamentary representatives for that area immediately secure a meeting with the commissioner to find out the details, so that they can go on to intervene in some constructive way?
“Serious leaders would be meeting and putting heads together and coming up with concrete interventions. Go in, take the professionals who can engage in counselling, offer work study programmes, offer job opportunities to the young people who might be employed, find ways of pulling those young people away from the attraction of drug selling and other forms of criminal activity,” he stressed.
Against this backdrop, Comissiong stressed that Barbadians had to take action themselves and suggested they start with the education system.
Lamenting that too many children were leaving school after 12 years dejected and dysfunctional, he called for a major overhaul and urged key sectors to team up to correct the problems.
“We have to pool our resources. We have to be guided by a spirit that says we care for each other . . . . No student is allowed to fall through the cracks. And I am suggesting that the fundamental mobilization can take place around the primary and secondary schools,” he said.
“It will call for new relations between the teachers’ union and the principals of the schools; . . . between the PTA association and the old scholars working with the school principals and the teachers and the unions and reaching out to us [the public].”