Revealed: Gun Crime Part 2 - Barbados Today

Special Report by Emmanuel Joseph

Published Feb 03, 2023 | Part 2

Special Report by Emmanuel Joseph

Published Feb 03, 2023 | Part 2

It is not a prediction that anyone concerned about the crime situation in Barbados and hoping for an end to gun violence wants to hear, but according to one behavioural expert, things are likely to get worse before they get better.

Professor of Management and Organisational Behaviour at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus Dwayne Devonish has based that prediction on research and his assessment of 2022, a year in which there was a “large” upsurge in criminal activity that was facilitated by gun violence and an increase in rival gang activity.

He has applauded the Government and new Minister responsible for Crime Prevention Corey Lane for plans to try to arrest the situation; however, the behavioural expert is not optimistic about seeing any real improvement in the incidence of violent crime that plagued Barbados last year.
In fact, as far as he is concerned,

“the pace at which we are moving, things will get worse before they can get better.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see a further upsurge in gun violence,” he told REVEALED. “Let’s put a caveat here. We have seen the legislative change in the Firearms Act which has made it a bit more onerous now to hold an illicit firearm. So, we have created a harsher penalty or sanction.” The Firearms Amendment Act 2022 came into force on January 1, 2023 with more severe fines and penalties for gun-related crimes. Someone convicted for such an offence for the first time would serve 10 to 20 years in prison and could also be fined $100,000, while punishment for a second offence is 20 years to life in prison. “The question is whether that is sufficient. I don’t think so,” Professor Devonish said soberly as he reflected on a year in which Barbados recorded 38 murders – six more than in 2021. Of those killings in 2022, 28 were firearm related.


JAN - DEC 2022

Location of Shooting – O

*stats provided by

*Data unavailable for 1 murder in the period of Jan-Dec 2022.

*All identified areas are approximate locations according to media reports.

*Data unavailable for 1 murder in the period of Jan-Dec 2022.

*Location represent area of shootings and not necessarily area of death.

The academic who has conducted research among juvenile criminal offenders suggests that Barbadian authorities must also look at preventative measures and continue the crackdown on illegal guns, not just those entering the country, but the ones already here.

“Illicit firearms, as we can see, are coming in through our legitimate ports. So, we can see there is not just a need for increased surveillance but increased action on that surveillance. But let me go further. We still already have an abundance of illicit firearms here in Barbados. So, it is imperative that law enforcement now should be engaged in a significant crackdown on what already exists within our borders in the communities in terms of the access and availability of illicit firearms,” he asserted.

“We have to do a lot more in communities. The last piece of research I did in 2018 revealed that a lot of community members, especially in those so-called at-risk communities, are calling for greater engagement from the private sector, Government and NGOs [non-governmental organisations] to develop community programming for young men. Not just programming by way of training and development but the creation of opportunities by which to apply those acquired skills.”

“The lower-class men are the ones that are pushed forward as the front soldiers of crime.”

But at the back, the real army is the ones who do not come forward, who are not in the court system,” argued the author of Murders That Shocked Barbados, The Barbados Prison System: Chronicles of Incarceration, Death, Riots and Reformation, Barbados’ Most Wanted, and Sex, Drugs & Murder – Unsolved Murders In Barbados.

He lamented what he said was an increase in access to illicit firearms and a rise in recklessness last year, particularly among young men who are emboldened to shoot their victims in broad daylight, putting innocent bystanders in danger.

Professor Devonish submitted that while the root of the shootings and other violent crimes was multifaceted, one of the driving forces behind this behaviour was the glamourisation of lawlessness coming out of places such as Jamaica and the United States of America.

“Many might argue there are a lot of cultural influences from North America, Jamaica, and other parts of the world in terms of how young people are now being emboldened by certain activities. People argue that young people are much bolder. I am not in full agreement that they have necessarily become bolder. I think what has happened is that there is an increase in carelessness and recklessness,” he contended. “I would say they are further emboldened by the access to illicit firearms –

“Now I have a gun in my hand, I am a bigger man, I am a stronger person, and no one can mess with me. I can go out, I can shoot, I can hide”.

“There is another thing that we are not talking about. It is the fact that there is money out there in this criminal activity. There are a lot of young men even under the age of 20 who are being hired as assassins. All of these things come together to create the kind of activity that we have seen in 2022 and even a year before where we saw that upsurge in gun violence, especially among young men.”

The researcher added that what Barbados also witnessed in 2022 was a continuation of a breakdown in communities and families, and young men coming from impoverished households.

“It means that legitimate sources of income and employment are quite rare. They [young men] are quite frustrated, and these young men are seeing themselves at a crossroads and that the only avenue that they can take is through criminal activity. And with the leverage of illicit firearms, you are seeing this large upsurge in criminal activity facilitated through gun violence among these rival gangs,” he contended.

Criminologist Kim Ramsay agrees and adds that the scourge is mushrooming in some families, based on research, which will be featured in her upcoming book.

She shared with REVEALED a few of the stories told by some of her research subjects, including one who said

“his father knew he was a gunman but all he would tell me is ‘be careful’”.

“There was nobody to tell them to come back. Then there are those whose parents left them at a young age and migrated overseas. So, at the centre of a lot of these men’s lives is the absence of a father or mother figure and a person who enables their needs, whether it’s a mother, a brother, a sister, whether it’s several girlfriends – because a lot of them have more than “one girlfriend . . . There is always this element of enabling my need,” Ramsay submitted.

“So those are some of the factors – the enabling parents who encourage the behaviours, the parents who accept the drug money. They don’t really want to but they need the money. The house wants fixing, the bill wants paying. ‘Courts running me down, my son bringing in $2000 and $3000.

“I don’t want to ask him where he got it from because I don’t want to hear.”

“At the end of the day if he comes and puts $500 in my pocket and says ‘mummy, pay the light bill’, you going to tell him no?”

How many parents out there are strong enough to say no? So, all of those are things you have to consider as well.”

Ramsay is quite worried about some criminal trends of today that did not exist decades ago. These include young people being paid $500 to $1000 to be hitmen.

“That is concerning to me. It shows that a lot of young people do not value life,” she lamented.

“And again, based on interviews that I have done, the concern is that the young person today is a different young person to the young person of 30 years ago.”

In essence, she said, modern-day youth are more ruthless, do not want to listen to their elders, are not interested in change, are hot-headed, and are angrier and more violent. “Based on interviews that I have conducted, you hear men say, ‘I may be a gangster but I used to listen to my mother . . . Mummy says get home now, I home at 7 o’clock . . . Even though I got a gun in my waist, I would get home at 7 o’clock’.

These young people today are not interested. They curse their mothers, they are very anti-establishment, they are very anti-authority. Those types of persons are a very dangerous force to reckon with. That is a trend that I have seen that is concerning to me,” Ramsay told REVEALED.

“Another trend is the blatant display of violence in public spaces, where you are willing to shoot somebody [if] you see them on a bus, in a mall, anywhere – you are willing to take them out because you don’t really care, because at the end of the day you have a mission to carry out,” she reported.

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