The level of violence and lawlessness being exhibited across Barbados is as vexing as it is obnoxious and it must never become our way of life.
Senseless was last week’s killing of bread vendor Hayden Mayers who was simply plying his trade when he was attacked by armed bandits. The almost daily shootings are madness and the increase in robberies at business establishments, big and small, are out of place in a country battling to return to economic prosperity.
It’s equally loathsome to see our young men walking across Coleridge Street in handcuffs. Today, we had another jarring moment as one 17-year-old, two 18-year-olds and a 20-year-old appeared in the District ‘A’ Magistrates’ Court charged with Mayers’s murder last Thursday.
Crime is costly on all fronts and given the visible evidence the scourge has wrought in countries next door and far and beyond, a zero-tolerance approach to crime must be enforced.
Of course, the immediate and most obvious impact of crime includes death and injury. Families, friends, workmates, communities suffer the trauma of losing a loved one. It is painful to watch the affected grieve their loss. Then there is the long-term psychological effect; some resort to living in fear.
But what of the indirect cost of crime, which can be less obvious but nevertheless, have significant consequences?
Think of reduced worker productivity, increased uncertainty and risk, more expensive insurance, more costly capital, the closure of businesses, the emigration of skilled workers, and the loss of foreign investment.
High rates of violent crime affect people’s ability to save and willingness to invest, which then depresses future growth rates.
Furthermore, areas badly affected by violence receive little productive investment, which means that there are few legitimate employment opportunities. This leads to a perfect breeding ground for crime for the lawless, who prey on the unsuspecting young and innocent, and the horrible cycle continues.
This is why, the current situation is untenable. If nothing else, this current spate of violence and lawlessness will derail Barbados’ forward march to recovery.
Much has been said of the contributing factors to this problem.
We lament the decline in parenting, the breakdown of traditional family values, the illegal drug trade and the proliferation of firearms, gangs, high unemployment among youth, the lack of opportunities and positive outlets for our youth and we could go on and on.
However, we are often more reactive than proactive.
No one in our society escapes the impact of crime and violence. Crime interferes with our daily life, our personal sense of safety, and our ability to trust. It challenges the fabric of our society and our way of life. Lives are forever changed when parents are gunned down, breadwinners are murdered, and our youth die prematurely or are locked up.
The solution must be multifaceted. More police and tougher laws won’t cut it.
We need a broad coalition of support that includes community leaders, families, law enforcement, social services, schools, therapists, counselors, faith-based leaders and youths.
But at the centre must be prevention. This requires developing a raft of strategies to address root causes, including education and employment, treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, community programmes for our youth, employment training programmes, and support and funding for positive outlets such as sports, arts, music, and the like.
We can’t stress enough the need for early intervention and prevention, steering young people away from crime and building a productive society where the threat of violence and lawlessness become non-existent.