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Violence and Crime in St. Lucia Today — The Dilemma of a Small Island State

By Sylvestre Phillip

THERE is no doubt that St. Lucia and St. Lucians have found themselves in a very difficult situation. In fact, we are in dire made it quite clear that she would not tolerate that kind of behaviour in the Honourable House. I myself have sat in the Lower House and witnessed straits as it relates to violence in our Fair Helen.

About 50 years ago as I grew up in the community of Marchand, some of the main disciplinary problems were boys calling the older men ‘names’ and engaging in fist to fist fights. Today’s transgressions include total disrespect, drug abuse, robbery, assault, gun-toting youths, and murder.

Today, there is utter disrespect for persons and institutions in our beautiful island and that pervades the entire fabric of our society. Even our sacred institutions come under attack: parliament, churches, workplaces; governmental and non-governmental institutions, and formal as well as informal groups. Disrespect everywhere!

Only recently, the Speaker of the House of Assembly had very good reason to chide members of the Honourable House for their lack of respect for each other. The Speaker very heated but respectful debates. The members even crack jokes at each other during the discussion. It’s really not the same today.

It is becoming so commonplace in our communities to hear of break-ins into our churches to steal copper and other valuables wherever they could be found in the churches. No respect for our sanctuary and other sacred places.

There is a certain level of callousness that prevails in workplaces today. People of power and authority talk down to their workers in a manner that makes them feel very embarrassed or uncomfortable. Indeed, I intend to deal with the issue of power and authority in a separate article through this medium.

A combination of guns and drugs results in much of the violence and crimes in our society today. Many young people have easy access to both drugs and guns. Conflicts in the past which would have resulted in a bloody lip now result in deadly shootings. Young people seem unable to handle violence and aggression. This situation stretches our police to the maximum. But judging from recent conversations from the police, they are just as resolved as the criminals to deal with the situation. And the whole of St. Lucia wishes them well.

As a direct result of violence and crime, there is a changing pattern of family and community life. The ‘family neighbourhood’ and community dynamics that once socialized our young people into the norms of our society have become extinct. For example, when I grew up as a child and misbehaved in public any member of the neighbourhood could have given me a scolding. I couldn’t dare go home and report to my parents because I would have received another scolding.

Sexual abuse is another bugbear that St. Lucia has to deal with. Young men are violating our senior citizens with improbity. Absolutely no respect! They do not stop for a little while to think about their own mother or other female members of their own nuclear or extended family. The criminal instincts are simply allowed to take over completely.

As a child, I remember that the old ladies had a lot of power and influence in the communities. I remember having to go to the home of a senior citizen to say night prayers and another to learn the catechism in preparation for First Holy Communion. These people were well respected. Now, the situation is horrifically different.

What is perhaps most alarming is that violence is becoming so commonplace in our schools that it is becoming or close to becoming the norm rather than the exception. Students are now reporting to school with dangerous weapons and guns. My goodness! Lord have mercy!

Adolescent homicide has reached the highest ever in St. Lucia. Gunfire has killed many of our youthful workforce. Suicide is the other issue our country now has to deal with.

In conclusion, I wish to say that as a classroom teacher and school principal, I have written several articles suggesting ways in which we could help students deal with aggression. But those in authority did not seem to listen. What happens now is that the new criminals are born before the ‘old ones’ die.

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