A local criminal justice expert today warned that Barbados could not allow its crime situation to reach the stage of that in Jamaica, while pointing out that based on the results of a recent gang study, a ‘Don’ culture was already emerging here.
“One community was identified in our study as having been neglected for years [with] no agencies, failed programmes . . . [and] years and years [of neglect] by successive governments,” reported Kim Ramsay, the senior research officer in the Criminal Justice Research and Planning Unit (CJRPU).
She went on to make reference to the garrison community of Tivoli Gardens in Jamaica, which fell under the command of the notorious drug lord and ex-leader of the so-called Shower Posse, Christopher Dudus Coke, for close to two decades before he was arrested on drug charges and extradited to the United States in 2010.
Coke’s arrest had triggered widespread violence, led by his supporters in West Kingston, before order was restored and Coke pleaded guilty in 2011 to federal racketeering charges in connection with drug trafficking and assault.
On June 8, 2012, he was sentenced by a Federal Court in New York City to 23 years in Federal prison.
While warning that “we cannot . . . [and] should not allow a Dudus to spring up in Barbados because of societal exclusion and neglect”, Ramsay noted that there had always been gang activity on the island.
However, she told a National Consultation on Crime and Violence at the Garfield Sobers Gymnasium that over time groups had evolved, and, as a result of the easy availability of firearms, they had become more synonymous with violence.
Earlier, Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite had expressed concerned about the growing number of females involved in crime.
Addressing the consultation, Brathwaite, who is also the Minister of Home Affairs, also made reference to the research conducted over the past six months by the CJRPU saying “today boys are only twice as likely as girls to be arrested for a violent crime”.
This compares to three decades ago when it was said that “boys were four times as likely as girls to be arrested for a violent crime”.
He therefore acknowledged that several issues needed to be urgently addressed, including gun violence, drug trafficking and cultivation of marijuana, indiscipline, as well as a lack of morals and values among young people.
“Based on research it is clear that crime is a direct result of societal issues that must be addressed with social interventions. This must also be balanced with strong law enforcement which is being addressed by our police force,” Brathwaite said, while warning that “there is a criminal element in Barbados [for whom] this approach is necessary to bring about immediate crime control.
“This national consultation is not a knee jerk reaction to the current crimes occurring in Barbados, but one of the strategies employed to curb violence among youth,” he said, pointing out that between 2001 and 2006 there were various consultations and green papers issued on crime.
“There is a body of work which would have contributed to our National Youth Policy which was published in 2011. [However]not all recommendations provided were implemented . . . [but] this consultation should provide an opportunity to reflect on what has been working and what has not been working,” Brathwaite said while giving the assurance that research will continue to inform his ministry’s policy.
The Attorney General also assured that over the next two months, members of the CJRPU would be visiting a number of “hot spots” across the island, “to get a better understanding of the factors within identified communities that pre-dispose young people to criminal activities.
“This evidence will enable resources to be channeled where they are most needed,” Brathwaite said, adding that “gone are the days when persons come up with ideas based on a gut feeling and hope that it corrects existing problems”.