Managing violent crimes and the general fear of crimes in Barbados remain a major challenge for law enforcement officials.
This issue came under the microscope on Friday during a crime and violence symposium at the Hilton Resort, as academics came together with law enforcers to discuss some of the challenges facing the country when it comes to crime and violence.
Senior Research Fellow at the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) Dr Corin Bailey said what has led to a lot of the concern about crime in Barbados and other Caribbean islands was not only the change in the level of crime but a change in the nature of the crimes being committed.
He said while crime rates were generally high in the region with the main feature being violent ones, it was property crimes that were more prevalent in Barbados as opposed to crime against the person.
“Homicide rates have been rising rapidly in most Caribbean countries,” said Bailey.
“Barbados is a notable exception to this. Generally, there have been relatively low rates of violent crime, but despite that there have been concerns for what are increasing levels of that violent crime. And of course, the recent upsurge in violence justifiably led to somewhat of a national panic. As a result, even small increases in criminal activities are greeted with considerable concern,” he explained.
Last year the island recorded 28 murders, and for the first quarter of this year there have been 20 violent deaths.
Bailey said when it came to property crimes in Barbados, residential burglary, criminal damage and commercial burglary were the top three up to 2018, while top violent crimes remain robbery, serious bodily harm, aggravated burglary and murder.
According to data, victims of violent crimes in Barbados are generally males between the ages of 26 and 35, while the perpetrators are usually males between 20 and 39-years-old, who tend not to have finished secondary school, have a previous criminal record and their most common motives are based on disputes and domestic violence.
The most common weapons used in violent crimes in Barbados are firearms and knives.
Bailey added that domestic violence, corporal punishment and sexual violence remained areas of concern in the region, adding that individuals lack skills to solve disputes peacefully, which then leads to “trivial disagreements” being often blown out of proportion.
“So Barbados is and has been part of a violent culture and exhibiting violent behaviour of which murder is just one manifestation,” he said.
He said finding solutions to the problem of crime and violence remained “problematic” and Barbados and the rest of the region should seek out best practices from other territories and tailor them to local needs, focusing on addressing the risk factors taking a more preventative approach.
However, indicating that residents should not panic, Bailey said the country needed to come up with policy decisions regarding the risk factors for crime and “whether the implementation of the targeting of these risk factors should form part of a holistic approach to crime prevention”.
Meanwhile, Deputy Commissioner of Police Erwin Boyce told the gathering that most of the crime was concentrated in the “Bridgetown division” and was generally more “welcomed” in “slump” like districts.
He said that for the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF), “one of the most pressing and demanding challenges relates to the management of violent crimes, and the management of fear resulting from violent crimes”.
Boyce explained that while there has historically been a strong link between firearms and the illegal drug trade, violence had taken a new form.
He also pointed out that some people were finding more innovative ways of smuggling firearms, adding that they were dismantling them and shipping them at different times.
“At one time we as law enforcement would look to drug trafficking as part of firearm trafficking – ten years ago, you would see drugs and guns, but because underground economy has evolved into a real organized activity, you are now seeing two distinct trafficking regimes. Yes, you are still seeing drugs and guns, but you are seeing now there is an industry for illegal firearms to more or less protect the turf,” he explained.
However, Boyce gave the assurance that the RBPF was on top of the situation through its various community policing programmes and through intelligence gathering.
“Barbados remains a very safe place and Barbados in my mind, has no ‘no-go areas’. Yes, there are areas that require vigilance but there are no ‘no-go areas’ in Barbados,” insisted Boyce. (MM)