Yesterday’s press conference by the police high command did very little to calm our fears about rising violent crime in our society.
While statistically police may feel good about saying that “crime is down” in one area or another, there is no fooling anyone who has been residing here for less than a minute into thinking that we are any safer today than we were yesterday in a society in which criminals are as bold and brazen as ever.
As the Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith acknowledged we are now faced with a type of criminal who is not thinking twice about using public events as the launching pad from which to exact revenge on perceived enemies, or to try to take out their rivals.
Anyone who is surprised by this would have had to be living under rock over the last month alone in which we were treated to not one, but two very worrying incidents that have had the effect of sullying the reputation of the MV Dream Chaser.
Two Fridays ago 26-year-old Donason Ricardo Husbands of Fairfield Road, Black Rock, St Michael was shot and killed after disembarking the vessel at the end of a pleasure cruise. Another man was shot and injured in the same attack, which came on the heels of a stabbing last month, which marred an afternoon cruise aboard the popular party boat, which sent patrons into an immediate state of shock and panic.
In light of these events and with 17 murders already on record for the year, it has to be said that all involved urgently need to take stock.
That Barbadians can no longer go on a pleasure cruise, have a good time and be assured of returning home safely is in itself disturbing.
It speaks to a general security problem that police must themselves respond to.
It is therefore not enough for the police chief to highlight what is now a known fact that “there is growing evidence that the hosting of some public events, especially cruises and open-air fetes, are now being used as the platform for the commission of violent crimes involving the use of firearms”, or as Mr Griffith said yesterday, “our intelligence suggests that rival groups use these gatherings as an opportunity to either exact revenge or resolve disputes through the use of violence”.
What is needed is an adequate counter strategy that pre-empts such “revenge shootings”.
It means tighter controls at the border, as was promised since last year, to keep the high powered guns from filtering into our country; it means tougher gun laws – and not just talk of such by the Attorney General et al; it means stricter licensing regimes and penalties and actual enforcement of the gun rules.
During his press conference at Police Headquarters on Roebuck Street, The City, where he delivered a report on the crime situation here during the first half of this year, Commissioner Griffith made a point of saying that many of the victims of violent crimes have also been responsible for attracting this kind of conduct onto themselves.
We would like to add that they are attracted to certain types of events, which means that commensurately there must be a greater security presence at these outings, which in and of themselves need to be reviewed for want of a better understanding of why they have become synonymous with revenge shootings and the like.
Certainly, as a tourism dependent country we cannot afford to let our guard down. When the criminals get bold our police need to be one step ahead and we are not talking here about giving them any carte blanche licence to shoot to kill.
However, in today’s Barbados it is clear that more needs to done to drive fear into the hearts of our criminals before they are made to believe it is open season.
We look forward to hearing from the goodly Attorney General Dale Marshall on how his new Barbados Labour Party administration intends to strengthen the police’s hand and to rein in crime before it gets any more out of hand on this 166 squares miles of rock.
The time for talk is over. What we need is firm and decisive action.