If police want to regain the confidence of persons living in ‘at risk communities’ they have to improve the standard of their policing and forge stronger relationships with those residents.
That was one of the recommendations coming out of two studies by criminologist Kim Ramsay and University of the West Indies lecturer and researcher Dr Dwayne Devonish.
Using data gathered from the studies, the duo revealed that persons from six communities across Barbados considered to be high-risk, believed they could not trust the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF).
The communities targeted were the Pine, Orleans, Deacons, Eden Lodge and Chapman Lane, all in St Michael and Wotton in Christ Church.
Speaking at the release of the findings of the merged studies entitled Criminal Victimization and Fear of Crime in At Risk Communities at the UWI Graduate Studies’ building this morning, Ramsay cautioned that failure by law enforcement to mend that relationship could result in the uprising of a don.
She said it was in that manner that Christopher Dudus Coke rose to become one of the most powerful drug lords in Jamaica.
“We cannot afford to be like Jamaica and have a don takeover a community,” Ramsay warned.
Dr Devonish said it was important for police to have the trust of all Barbadians, especially those residing in “low class” communities.
“We made recommendations to a key player in the criminal justice system and that is the RBPF. The fact that there is a bigger call for improving the relationships between policing and not just community policing, but policing in general.
“You have conflicts often time between what the community police officer wants to do and what a general police instruction or instructive might have come from to go into communities and intervene and then the two are not collaborating, so you are sending mixed signals to the community,” Dr Devonish explained.
“There is also a call for increased training of police officers when it comes to community relations.”
Other recommendations also included the establishment of a community driven National Taskforce on Communities Against Crime, the implementation of stronger sports programmes and the establishment of programmes suited to the needs of residents.
Ramsay said while persons outside of those communities considered them to be hotspots for criminal activities, 65 per cent of the residents in those communities said they felt safe while only 15 per cent said they felt unsafe.
“We found that the majority of persons in those communities were not fearful of crime in their communities. What I found interesting about this study is that even though persons were not fearful of crime there was crime all around them,” Ramsay pointed out.
“That means in my opinion that they have become numb to the crime in their communities.”
The study found that while Chapman Lane and the Orleans had the most ‘blocks’ and Wotton was least likely to have disorder, Eden Lodge had grown to become a problematic area.
“Residents of Chapman Lane and Eden Lodge expressed the most fear as it related to walking alone in the community after dark…and when I spoke to persons who went and did the interviews, especially in Eden Lodge, they said the people are extremely concerned with the level of crime in their community.
“They are concerned about it because there are shootings there almost every day,” she outlined.
Ramsay said shootings and guns were the biggest concern among residents living in those communities.