A local economist has described the country’s worrying crime problem as a public health issue and is pleading with the Government to begin addressing it as such.
During a recent panel discussion on crime, lecturer in the Department of Economics at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Jeremy Stephen declared that the crime woes could not be tackled simply as an economic issue. In fact, he believes the Government simply does not have the necessary funds to treat it in that way.
Instead, the former Barbados Economic Society head said the problem needed to be tackled in the same way that deadly illnesses are addressed when they are deemed a major threat to public health.
He pointed to strategies used in other countries, such as Scotland, as an example.
“They decided to view the many stabbing incidents and gang-related incidents they had in Scotland as an issue of public health . . . but a lot of us don’t view the issue as a health issue. The same way you view a cold, the same way you view the transmission of HIV, the risks associated with it, the cultural factors that promote violent and careless sex that can lead to further transmission, we would put things in place . . .
“So, the way I view this violent uprising in Barbados has to do a lot with the economy, but also a blatant disregard by us as Barbadians to recognize the problem at its roots for what it is,” he said.
Stephen further asserted that if the issue was treated in the way he was suggesting, it would become easier to mobilize more people to fight crime.
“We must start recognizing that each of us has to play a role with respect to going into the communities. We also have to hold the police, via the AG [Attorney General] accountable with respect to community policing which is a dead art. Communities are very much insular and depending on the median income in Barbados and depending on the types of communities, you get less interaction for the benefit of the said communities.”
While he accepted that allocation of monies by the Government had a major role to play in the fight against crime, the economist blasted political leaders in general for failing to make such issues a priority.
“In Scotland, for instance, the greater part of their budgets have gone towards community policing and education within the community and community-driven events. But such initiatives, unfortunately, are tied to election cycles in Barbados. You can’t solve a problem without dealing with it on an annual basis,” said Stephen.
“We expect that Government will continue to scrap expenditure in the near term. So it would really take the average Barbadian telling himself that this problem is just like the common cold. The same way how when I know the flu is going around I would go and take my shots and prepare, educate my children in terms of the proper way of washing hands and so on, schools would do the same and we would take care of it on a community level.”
Stephens added that society needed to be realistic in its expectations, arguing that they were some societal norms which would not be eliminated in the near future.
“I have to accept that people cuss in Barbados; I have to accept that people are vulgar; and if I am to reverse that, there should be no Crop Over.
“What I do propose for now is that if you want to deal with the problem, we just do it slightly differently . . . . It has to be addressed from the cradle to the grave, in terms of education and . . . pointing our children in the right direction,” insisted Stephens.