It’s possible that the gun violence shattering some communities may be perpetrated by outsiders and not by residents, the Government’s chief criminologist has suggested.
And it’s a hypothesis she plans to test as the island grapples with the recent spate of shootings.
“My hypotheses is that the violence that we are seeing may not be perpetrated by persons living in the communities but persons coming in. That will have to be tested to see whether or not what I am saying is true and that is something I am pursuing as research,” said Cheryl Willoughby, director of the Criminal Justice Research and Planning Unit, while not referring directly to the recent incidents.
Over the weekend, a man was killed and two others injured in two separate shootings in the neighbouring communities of Crab Hill and Harrisons, St Lucy.
Last weekend, gunmen opened random fire in the community of New Orleans, St Michael sending panicked residents scampering for safety.
Willoughby made the comments while discussing the state of crime on Sunday’s edition of Down-to-Brasstacks on Voice of Barbados radio.
There was an urgent need to get to bottom of what was driving high levels of violence in some communities, Willoughby said, suggesting that current trend in Barbados did not fit the definition of at-risk communities – a term commonly used social research that is used by developed countries such as the United States and Britain.
“You would find that a lot of research would tell you that communities that have loose social ties, communities that are not well organized, communities that have a lot of poverty are those most at risk for these types of crimes.
“I find that the Barbados community does not fit that model and so we have to look at whether or not the problems that exists among feuding gangs, feuding individuals starts outside the community and then find themselves within the community context for violence to occur within those communities,” she said.
The criminologist insisted that for the situation to turn around, there must be an urgent intervention of strong community programmes and not just the deployment of more police.
“Boots on the ground will not cause crime to decrease or impact some of the serious gun related crimes that we may have. As soon as the police moves out of a particular community you are going to have the same kind of problems occurring within those communities, you see it when you set up different outposts in communities that are prone to violence… as soon as they move out, you have those problems re-occurring, we need to look at those social problems within the communities.”
Another Government crime researcher, Kim Ramsay, underscored the urgent need for intervention at the community level, and appealed to authorities to break up criminal groups in communities.
“It is a sub-culture that we need to work on and I spoke to the fact that these are able to spring up because of the lack of the access to programmes,”
The criminologist, who reiterated concerns that gun crime was at the level of an epidemic, also stressed that a strong-arm approach and “coming down harsh on these communities” would not solve the crime scourge.
“Give us the opportunities for our institution to go in with positive and more holistic programmes targeting young people so that we can see a turnaround in some of these communities,” Ramsay told the programme, pointing out that similar initiatives in Haynesville, St James had reaped success.