Letters & Opinion

Thugs and the culture of fear… The Elephant in the Room

DURING a typical week in a quiet neighbourhood just outside of Castries there was a drive by shooting in broad daylight. This is not unusual these days. The target was a young man standing in a bus shelter, in the late afternoon.

The bullet fired from a speeding car missed its mark, barely. Luckily there were no school children or other innocent bystanders who are usually crowded under the shelter’s roof, but many people saw and heard the altercation.

The shouting, the argument and finally the unmistakable gunshots caused the many residents who witnessed this now common occurrence, to quickly seek shelter behind walls and doorways.

Was this reported to the police… likely not. The fear of retribution, pay back, and the mistrust of the effectiveness of law enforcement prevents law abiding citizens from taking action.

Another incident in this same “peaceful” neighbourhood just days before was reported to police however.

Two back to back attempted carjacking incidents by would be thieves who, late at night placed obstacles in the road in order to stop the occasionally passing cars.

In both cases the drivers were fortunate to have escaped with slightly damaged cars, and their lives intact. Next time may be different.

This same neighbourhood hosts one of the busiest drug trafficking rings.

Locals and tourists beat a track to the “boys” who hang out and play dominoes at the rum shop’s decrepit yard. Ironically they are located on the main highway and next to a church. Drug deals are open here. Neighbours and businesses are afraid to complain while others quickly speed past in cars, avoiding eye contact.

Carjacking incidents are becoming commonplace as illustrated here. The official response by law enforcement is no surprise. A report was made… and promptly filed away. Sometimes lost, and never to see the light of day again.

The police rarely if ever visit this neighbourhood, which is located right on the busy highway leading from Gros Islet to Castries. An easy “drop in” by a police car occasionally would somewhat alleviate the fear that has become commonplace by citizens of these streets, and indeed most neighbourhoods.

In St Lucia, this neighbourhood is typical and reflects countless others in demographics. Police patrol guard the cruise ship passengers in the Castries port, creating a sense of security for those who spend only a few hours visiting colourful markets and sampling wares. Worldly travelers however can see beyond this facade.

Witness the fortress like bars on the windows and doors of most homes, and the barking dogs announcing every pedestrian (or cat) passing by.

A culture of fear is all pervading. The local drug dealers ply their wares to the tourists on street corners and within most resorts openly. Broken liquor and beer bottles litter ditches.

Road accidents caused by speeding, and general aggression go unchecked as surveillance cameras, signal lights, speed postings and police cruisers are virtually nonexistent.

Observations… many will criticize these remarks or become defensive stating that this is not an unusual situation for a country in the Caribbean, but other islands have recognised that it is a quick slide into a low Tripadvisor rating that will ultimately affect tourism.

Jamaica, Trinidad, and Dominican Republic are all being avoided by many cruise ships and most vacationers, ultimately affecting those country’s economies.

Visitors love the beauty of this country and the genuine hospitality of the majority of the people but they are not blind.

Please don’t accept this as your social reality.

There is so much that can be done.

— Tourist

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