If killings continue at the current alarming clip Barbados could more than double its previous murder record.
That estimation has come from retired deputy commissioner of police Bertie Hinds, who said based on statistics for the first three months of the year the island was on course to record between 80 to 90 murders by the end of 2019.
In the first quarter of the year Barbados has already recorded 20 murders. The 35 murders which occurred in 2006 are the most ever in Barbados in a calendar year.
Speaking at a panel discussion on Youth, Crime and Violence in Barbados – Solutions and Strategies, at the 3W’s Oval last night, Hinds said the unprecedented number of murders so far for the year was reason for concern.
He revealed that over the past 35 years, Barbados averaged 22 murders annually,
which worked out to roughly two murders per month.
Referring to the first three months of this year, Hinds said “Never in the history of Barbados has this happened, so something has gone amiss . . . . If we continue on this trajectory we are on course for something like 80 to 90 murders in Barbados. God forbid that these things happen because already there is fear and panic among the population in Barbados,” he added.
“Entire lifestyles have been changing. You have to change your lifestyle now because chances are, places that you used to frequent may be subjected to violence. The famous shopping mall up there in Christ Church, who would have thought about that?”
Hinds suggested that there was a well-established link between drugs and the rise in violence. He said what was now happening in Barbados was a carbon copy of what took place in the US in the 70s and 80s.
“This is a clear manifestation of what was happening in the US in the 70s and 80s, so we are mimicking behaviours of continental US and Central America to some extent and Europe also,” Hinds reported.
Director of the Criminal Justice Research and Planning Unit Cheryl Willoughby also revealed that coming out of several studies which examined data captured between 2012 and 2016, the 16 to 25 age group was proving to be the most worrisome.
Willoughby said they had seen an increased number of 16 and 17-year-old males being charged with murder and gun-related offences.
“That is the gender in Barbados right now that is creating most of the problems as it relates to crime, especially serious, violent crimes and the 16-25 age group is posing the most problems and are occupying the resources within the criminal justice, as well as the penal system,” she said.
Furthermore, she said there had also been an increase in the number of violent acts being committed by teenagers.
“We examined the extent of violence among the 11 to 15 age cohort and we found that over a four-year period Barbados had a 35 per cent increase in offences committed by persons in that age group.
“Assaults and woundings represented the most popular category of offences committed by these persons and they accounted for 30 per cent of all the offences committed during that time period. So what we are now seeing are juveniles increasingly committing violent offences,” Willoughby said.
However, she said there was clear evidence to suggest that most of the young people committing these offences had either been expelled or left school at an early age. According to her, the time had come for educational reform to take place in Barbados.
“I do not want to cast blame on our educational system but I think the time is right for reform within our education system in order for us to be able to address some of the issues we are seeing early and not wait until these persons are within the constraints of the RBPF,” she noted.