MARSHALL CONCERNED CRIME IN OTHER ISLANDS COULD SPILL OVER
By Jenique Belgrave
Attorney General Dale Marshall is concerned about the possible spillover of violent crimes from neighbouring islands into Barbados.
Lamenting that Caribbean islands account for more than half of the top 10 countries with the highest murder rates, he said the “frightening” issue must be dealt with before it spreads throughout the region.
Using St Lucia as an example, he pointed out that the escalating violence in that Eastern Caribbean island had led to law enforcement officers attached to the Regional Security System (RSS) being deployed to Castries to support local police in their crime fight.
“St Lucia has a population two-thirds the size of Barbados, and a murder rate that at our highest, St Lucia was double. So far for the year, the RSS has had to seek the assistance of other Caribbean countries to send in police officers and soldiers in order to help maintain law and order in St Lucia.
“And you will have heard about the level of viciousness. There is a story of a two-year-old child who was shot eight times. Eight times! One of the things that we have to worry about is the spread of that level of violent crime coming from one country to the next,” he said.
Addressing the opening session of a two-day University of the West Indies Cave Hill campus symposium at the Sagicor School of Business, themed From Research to Action: Focused Approaches to Crime Prevention, Marshall said the great similarity between the types of crime and violence being seen across the Caribbean was one of the reasons for the hosting of a regional symposium on crime last month in Trinidad, as governments accepted that the existing interventions were not working.
Highlighting Barbados’ situation, the Attorney General said that currently there are 94 murder cases waiting to reach trial, and those included several accused facing more than one murder charge. There are also seven manslaughter and 287 firearm cases before the courts.
“We have to have a national response to those things, but when we think about the age of the generally young men who’ve been committing these crimes…some of them, as we say in the region, haven’t lost their mother’s features yet.
“Just four or five years [ago], some of these youngsters charged with murder offences or firearm offences would have been in Sunday school, would have been in our secondary schools; some of them might have been on your campus. But in a short space of time, they fall outside of our reach and into the clutches of a criminal element that embraces them, that showers them with something approximating love and affection,” Marshall said.
He advised that crime prevention must become a national initiative working to steer people away from criminal activity, and said Barbados’ decision to appoint a Minister to deal directly with the issue was a clear signal of how important the Government considers the issue.
“Crime prevention for us is no longer the police officer telling you to put lights outside your house. It is going to be how we get into our communities and try to divert our young men,” he added.
The symposium was hosted by the Cave Hill Campus Office of the Principal and UWI Centre for Criminal Justice and Security in collaboration with the CariSECURE 2.0. It continues on Friday.