A call this week by Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs Adriel Brathwaite has exposed the minister’s serious concern about the crime situation here.
In an address at the opening of a workshop to advance citizen security data management for youth crime prevention, Mr Brathwaite appealed to Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders to put crime and violence – as well as disaster management – on their agenda for the next meeting of heads of government due at the end of February next year.
On the surface, this seems simple enough, for crime has trans border implications and a good, enforceable regional plan that is well resourced would benefit Barbados.
However, upon closer examination of the minister’s call and the continuing rise in crime here, what is emerging are signs of aimless and haplessness by the authorities seemingly too timid, lacking purpose and bereft of ideas about how to tackle crime.
Mr Brathwaite appeared to be onto something when he contended that if crime, in particular, was not immediately controlled, it would have dire consequences.
“Unless we put the resources in place to tackle the challenges that we are having all across the region then we are shooting ourselves in the foot. We need a holistic approach. We need to have champions across all the ministries, across all the sectors, so that we have . . . information that is readily available. We cannot create effective policy without the relevant data,” he stated.
The questions, therefore, are obvious. Does the Attorney General feel the same way about crime in Barbados? If he does, why had he not ensured that the resources are available to tackle our crime challenge? And if he has tried, who is getting in his way?
With 28 murders so far this year and a universe full of violent crimes, the evidence is there that we are living in the age of danger as savage violence has erupted in recent times across the country.
If the Attorney General is unsure, he must talk to 64-year-old Charles Bynoe, the supervisor/manager of Buckley Plantation, St George, who was shot yesterday morning during a robbery attempt at the plantation; or he should hear from the 15-year-old schoolboy who was stabbed twice in the upper left side of his back by two schoolmates aboard a school bus. Maybe he can contact 41-year-old Adrian O’Brien Williams who was shot in his neck while at a shop at Bowmanston, St John. Or 83-year-old Colleen Jackman of Harmony Lodge, St Philip, who was brutally attacked in her own home by thieves who broke in, and had to be hospitalized with various injuries, including broken limbs.
All these crimes occurred this week alone.
And if he is still not convinced, maybe he should have a word with his own commissioner of police, who was the victim of an alleged assault recently.
Yes, crime is beginning to feel endemic and uncontrollable and we watch aghast as the criminals become more bold and brazen.
Yet here we are, seemingly unable to understand what is happening to us, and apparently unable to find answers despite our dominant intellectual capacity. Or so it seems.
In 1915 the Austrian neurologist and founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud warned that the “primitive, savage and evil impulses of mankind have not vanished in any individual”, but are simply waiting for the opportunity to show themselves again.
This may be what we are experiencing, and now is the time for the best thinkers and doers to identify and implement workable responses.
Maybe there are answers which Government is keeping close to its chest.
After all, it was not long ago, at the Democratic Labour Party’s conference, that Prime Minister Freundel Stuart promised that a series of measure to tackle the scourge would be rolled out soon.
But Mr Stuart also said the measures would come like a thief in the night.
“The criminal element does not call press conferences or issue releases to announce when or where they will strike next. That criminal element relies heavily on the element of surprise. The State, therefore, in defence of its citizens and of its values, will make use of the element of surprise as well,” Stuart said.
We are still waiting.
Mr Stuart’s words then were similar to those expressed repeatedly by Donald Trump during his campaign for the presidency of the United States.
He often spoke of the element of surprise – like a thief in the night, we guess – in the battle to defeat the so-called Islamic State, insisting he would not publicly discuss his military strategy so as not to tip off ISIS.
However, many experts felt his reluctance had more to do with the fact that he did not have a strategy at all.
We are not about to suggest that the Stuart administration has no strategy to combat crime, but we are yet to see the evidence.
And the longer the administration waits, the weaker and more fragile it appears, and this weakness is mirrored by a desperately collapsing economy and frighteningly violent crime.
Mr Stuart is good at delivering polemical essays and his presentation at the DLP conference in September was one such example.
It is in the follow-up that he has failed, leaving his Attorney General to appeal to Caribbean Community leaders to talk about crime.
How we yearn for some action!