Turf wars to control the drug trade are triggering the spate of gun violence in various parts of the island.
This is the view of Chairman of the Drug Education and Counselling Services (DECS) Roger Husbands, in light of the recent spate of shootings, which has resulted in the death of three men for the year and have left many Barbadians living in fear.
Husbands recalled that a few years ago, he was heavily criticized when he warned Barbadians about the growing number of gangs on the island, and the consequences in store for Barbados. He said while he took the criticism at that time, he is now issuing a fresh warning to the authorities that they need to take measures and act now to get the matter under control.
“What we are seeing now is a manifestation of conflict among gangs and territories, and a lot of this has to do with drug and gun sales. We hear talk about 15 and 16-year-olds with guns, but I know of young people younger than that who are given guns by high-class drug lords, to protect areas and to cause damage and harm.
“You could rent a gun in Barbados at a very cheap cost. Years ago the thing used to be a big rock, now it is a gun. Nobody is pelting big rocks anymore. People are renting guns, which are cheaper, and doing what they have to do to people,” he said.
“The gangs have changed their names, they have changed the way they operate, and they are more disguised. I mean all of these things I would tell the public and I would be called an alarmist, but they don’t understand the fact that these things do exist in our nation,” he added.
Husbands also warned that gang activities were increasingly spreading in schools creating a headache for education authorities who have to deal with fights and disputes.
“So it is no longer a simple situation where a man gets vex because a man stands on a toe, or a man tells another man about his mother,” he said.
On Wednesday, Barbados TODAY highlighted the plight of residents in the New Orleans community who are living in fear as they face an ongoing spate of gunplay, which some say is being carried out by teenagers and men in their early 20s.
Husbands said he believes that the police have been doing as much as possible with limited resources to fight the issue. However, he said the level of cooperation the law enforcement agency gets on the ground was limited because the reality stands that people are unwilling to snitch.
“We have this big thing in Barbados that you should not snitch. But the thing about it is that people don’t recognize that when you don’t tell the police, or you don’t assist the police, you make things worse. I mean, you have drug dealers that are actually paying people’s bills and rent and all kind of things.
“And they would prefer to shut their mouths as long as their things are being paid for, or they get the kind of support that they need. I think that people in communities need to be more responsible because we have children that are in danger in every level and we need to open our mouths,” he insisted.
On that note, Husbands also advised police to do what was necessary to gain the trust and confidence of residents in affected communities, especially those who were knowledgeable about what was happening on the ground.
“These are scenes that are very serious and until we can get that there are people in this nation in high places that need to be dealt with . . .This thing is going to get worse unless we start to put better measures in place. Having lectures and conferences and discussions about it is not the way to go,” Husbands said.
“You have people in the communities who know these things, who have been seeing these things for years and have solutions, but they are not asking those people. They are bringing people from all over the world, to come here to tell us what we already know.
“We need to get our people on the ground, who know about the gangs, the criminologists and people who have been trained, and people that are the grassroots to come together and find solutions,” he added.