Amid all the unfolding developments of the spiralling cost of living, the rise and fall of COVID-19 cases, preparations for Crop Over 2022, new mask mandates and everything else, there’s been a concerning spike in violence this month.
We should not be lulled into a false sense of security.
On May 6th, police discovered the lifeless body of O’Neal Farmer, 40, lying on the floor of an establishment at Jordan’s Lane, Nelson Street, St Michael. He had been stabbed.
A day later, police reported that a Canadian citizen who has been living here for more than a decade was robbed when masked men, brandishing what appeared to be a machine gun, invaded his home with four other occupants.
On May 11, a passenger and a conductor were injured after being involved in an altercation while their bus was en route to Bridgetown.
On May 15, two men were shot in Fernihurst, Black Rock, St Michael and another at Bush Yard Gap, St Michael.
Last Friday, a man was killed at Dash Gap, Bank Hall, and early this morning, a man was killed after being involved in a shooting incident with police at Eagle Hall.
This rash of violence is no slur against the rank and file of the Barbados Police Service who are working around the clock to keep this country safe.
And we are aware that they may have the intelligence about criminal activity to develop strategies to beat relentless perpetrators at their game.
But some reassurance – indeed some insight – from the BPS high command on these troubling developments would be as welcome as it is lacking.
Last November 1, 42-year law enforcement veteran Richard Boyce replaced Tyrone Griffith as Commissioner of Police.
To the best of our knowledge, while Commissioner Boyce has provided an update on the latest crime statistics via a press release, he is yet to present himself to the Barbadian public after six months on the job. He has been missing from the national conversation on crime and violence.
The police chief should step to the crease and make his delivery on what taxpayers can expect from his turn at the bat for us on the law and order front.
We don’t expect the police chief to announce his battle plan against violent criminals. But to “serve, protect and reassure” – as the police service’s motto promises – it is now time for him to simply connect with the same citizens on whom the police must rely in the fight against crime.
It may well be true that the perception of crime does not match the actual statistics. We still need to know.
Last week, when Prime Minister Mia Mottley made a special appearance on popular call in radio programme Down to Brass Tacks, one caller used the opportunity to raise his concern about crime.
He frankly shared his disappointment that this and past administrations have failed to wrestle waves of crime and violence to ground and he urged Mottley to implement tougher laws to deter criminals.
The Prime Minister’s defence was that legislation was already in place but that the administration of justice was not yet where it needed to be.
Despite the appointment of seven new judges – one Court of Appeal judge, four High Court judges and two temporary High Court judges – in October 2019, Mottley expressed concern with the speed at which the island’s courts are dealing with criminal matters and suggested reform of some nature might be necessary.
She said: “With respect to the laws those issues are very much there and for the most part they provide the penalties that you are asking for. Where I believe that we are falling down is that we are not moving cases through the court system still as fast as I would like to see because we have as you know put additional judges and positions in place, but I think that you need a reform of some of the procedural aspects of how we conduct cases, particularly in the criminal law, much of which resembles regrettably too much of a 19th and 20th century Barbados.”
But legal and judicial reforms cannot by themselves stop bullets from flying.
It is Government’s responsibility to ensure the Barbados Police Service has the tools it needs to get the job done, agree on the implementation of crime-fighting initiatives and hold the Police Chief and the top brass accountable if they still fail to deliver.
Equally, it is the responsibility of the lead warrior in the fight against crime to show the leadership we have come to expect from them as the nation grapples with these shootings and stabbings.
Only accused persons have a legally enforceable right to remain silent as a protection from self-incrimination. It is time for the Commissioner of Police in the face of this bloodletting to send a message to the law-abiding and the lawless.
In times of crisis, we demand not mere administrators, but leaders to help us all to cope, prepare and understand.