Two of the island’s well-respected anti-crime and security professionals are blaming a breakdown in social structures and a lack of attention to community policing for the ongoing wave of violence in Barbados.
And they are strongly recommending an urgent return to full-fledged community policing as one of the main solutions.
The suggestions were echoed this afternoon in separate interviews with former Commissioner of Police Orville Durant and Oral Reid, chairman of the Caribbean Association of Security Professionals (CASP) and a retired senior police officer.
Durant, a certified criminologist and attorney-at-law, attributed a major part of the crime problem to the Royal Barbados Police Force’s (RBPF) inability to gather “good” intelligence from the community.
The outspoken former top cop claimed that the anti-crime programmes which he had established to prevent crime have since been scrapped.
“I dealt with it [crime] when I was commissioner. You wait ‘till the horse gets out and now going to deal with it? You got to deal with it before. I assisted in developing a solid anti-crime platform . . . you will still get problems, but all areas through the public relations programme and so on that we had, were designed to prevent crime,” Durant told Barbados TODAY.
The retired commissioner contended that one of the reasons the force was now confronted with the wave of gun violence and other crimes was because the strategies established under his leadership have been “killed”.
“You move the police out of the districts. You stop all of the programmes . . . literally all stopped. You just ignored them. But now you got back the problem, how do you deal with them? You can’t keep dealing with problems when they flare up. You’ve got to do a lot more work when things are quiet and you make sure you prevent this kind of development,” he suggested.
Durant said when he was leading the force he anticipated a spike in crime and therefore started a series of programmes to try to stave it off.
“If you move the police from the communities, where are you going to get information from? And our problem right now is information. If somebody see somebody stab somebody or shoot somebody and he ran and they know where he had a row with somebody, that is easy . . . ‑that ain’t want no lot of big investigation,” he argued.
Regarding to border security and the influx of guns coming into the country through what current Commissioner Tyrone Griffith said were legitimate ports of entry, Durant was matter-of-fact in his comments, noting that this is a known fact.
“You have to have real intelligence gathering and the force had moved to an intelligence-gathering situation,” he recalled.
For Oral Reid, who is also chairman of Crime Stoppers Barbados, the troubling developments in crime can be attributed to a breakdown in societal structures including community policing.
“What we are seeing is a manifestation of a lack of structure in our society. It is symptomatic of a deterioration of societal structures. From a policing perspective, I believe that it is important for us to return to aspects of community policing, in order to be able to address some of the issues that are manifesting themselves at this point in time, Reid told Barbados TODAY.
He also thinks there should be leadership within the community to fill those gaps that exist between people experiencing financial difficulties and groups of youths who need to be mentored and supported as they transition from teens to adults.
“I don’t think this is a job for the police alone, but something that requires careful consideration and consultation with other social service agencies to meet this situation head-on and to address it,” the chairman of the Caribbean Association of Security Professionals said.
Reid was quick to point out though, that this is not a problem peculiar to this period, but one that continues to recur.
“And it is simply because we as a society have not sought to put in place, structures to really address the problems that will manifest themselves, especially at times of serious financial challenges, similar to what is happening now in our country,” the retired law enforcer added.
Regarding the issue of guns entering the country, Reid conceded that it was a mammoth undertaking for authorities to plug all possible points along the country’s borders. The top security official suggested some measures that could help.
“We have to be more rigorous in the application of policies and procedures to ensure that persons who are placed in the capacity to function in these border security areas are given the latitude and the equipment to function effectively.”