Letters & Opinion

When Your Neighbour’s House Is On Fire…

WE should all be familiar with the old saying which forms the basis of the title of this article. In this instance, I want to relate it to crime and security.

Not far south of us, Trinidad and Tobago has recorded 23 murders for the year as of January 9 — the day I am writing this. It is a trend that has continued unabated for several years, and the country ended last year just shy of 500 homicides.

The most recent homicide involved a 15-year-old schoolboy in a taxi on his way home from school, when that taxi was sprayed with bullets from an assault rifle. It crashed and burst into flames. Within minutes, pictures of the charred, ruined body of that child, his schoolbag thrown to one side, was circulating on social media.

There are now calls among some in Trinidad and Tobago for a state of emergency; their Minister of National Security, Edmund Dillon, says a line has been crossed. The fact is that line was crossed many years and hundreds of murders ago. Yet, that country cannot get a grip on crime. Why? Because it has allowed the horse to bolt, and that is the lesson we must take away here in Saint Lucia, where a bullet-riddled ending to 2017 saw this country set a new record for homicides: 60.

Crime is like cancer: it will metastasize unless you cut it out. The bad news for Trinidad and Tobago is that the cancer has spread to a point where treatment is going to be very costly. The good news for Saint Lucia is that if we act now, we can cut it out in the early stages.

The authorities responsible for National Security, the police and the government cannot sit idly by and see 2017 as an aberration, hoping for a reduction in murders this year. Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, Minister Hermangild Francis and Commissioner SeverinMoncherry must act quickly and aggressively, and they must act now to weed out the criminal elements and to send a strong signal that violent crime will not be tolerated. The fact is that Saint Lucia, more than even Trinidad, will suffer internationally if we don’t get a grip on it.

The sad truth is that the only thing standing in the way of pushing back the crime wave in Trinidad and Tobago is the will to do it. The solutions are there, but none of the past four governments have found the guts needed to tackle the issue head-on.

What is needed is effective and aggressive leadership and someone with the testicular fortitude to clean up the police service and change their attitude toward the public, whose trust and support they will ultimately need to get the information that will allow them to solve crime.

There needs to be greater accountability by senior police officials on a regular basis reviewed by a panel that includes members of the communities.

And a holistic crime plan needs to be developed that crucially has to get public buy-in, or else it will simply be wasted ink on paper.

Having said all of that, the fight against crime must be built on a foundation of unity. An army divided can never defeat its enemy. Crime transcends political, class, social and ethnic boundaries. We have a great opportunity to slay the beast early in Saint Lucia, and the government has a great opportunity to rally public support behind a national effort to eliminate serious crime from this beautiful island. I can only hope they pay heed because as my Trini friends tell me, their homes have become prisons from which they are afraid to venture.

Let’s ensure that 2018 is a bright and prosperous one, and let’s do it together.

Watchful Neighbour

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