Letters & Opinion

Major Crime is No Minor Matter!

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Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

The murder of an elderly shopkeeper, rape of a centenarian and CCTV footage of nightclub arson are among the latest crimes that have moved people to talk louder and longer than usual about the overall state of crime in Saint Lucia today.

I have repeatedly said and wrote that I never, ever thought I would get to a point where I would become immune to news about murders or deaths associated with crime.

But I actually now feel nothing like I used to when I read or watched the sunrise online news headline stories and images about another yet homicide or major violent act.

I chalk it up as the latest, absolutely sure there’ll definitely be another, just not knowing when or where, or who’ll be next.

It’s a pretty grim feeling and its sheer ugliness is shared by many here and across the Caribbean where crime is a major issue, as I again confirmed this past week from the responses to the aforementioned attacks on two elderly persons.

Whether they were selected for their age and vulnerability is a minor point of discussion, but the major debate between John and Joan Public this past week has been more about: What’s being done by the police to stop such crimes? What should or should not have been done with the perpetrators? Whether the police were ‘right to kill the rapist instead of him getting fat at Bordelais and coming back out to do the same thing…’ and conclusions that ‘Those people who do those things are possessed by demons!’ or ‘They are just paying badly for whatever bad they did somebody who paid them back…’

Superstition apart, there are still more questions than answers. That’s not unusual. But this is about much more than just asking or answering questions. It’s all about making people feel safe.

Following the just-after-midnight armed attack and robbery at a popular bar a few days ago during which an off-duty police officer was relieved of his or her firearm, more nightclubs are closing much earlier. And following the near-fatal shooting of a popular vendor of healthy foods who’s also a City Councillor, small shopkeepers are taking less chances of being caught in the dark heading home with the day’s cash.

The government of the day is always responsible for the state of crime and what concerns people most everywhere is the prevalence of crime, in this case crime-related deaths.

Just as Saint Lucians were voicing loud and long views and concerns about the state of crime and the number of homicides here on Thursday, the latest school shooting in America again raised debate about the fact that there have already been more mass shootings in the USA this year than there are days in the year.

Yet, like here, the killings make the news there, only to be forgotten the next day — as the next report is awaited.

It’s becoming a new norm, but such a feeling is not at all good. Not caring anymore and only expecting more of the same is a total resignation to acceptance that things cannot or will not change – as if change is no longer the only constant.

No country has ended crime and none will in our lifetime. But the job of the political directorate and the national security forces is always to find ways and means to assure people that their safety is guaranteed and protected.

When people no longer feel safe to walk the streets at night, or to take a late-night drink anywhere, or shopkeepers feel they must close early for fear of being killed in a night robbery, or nightclubs have to worry about their premises being set alight overnight, it’s just not a good feeling.

National Crime Surveys and traditional approaches haven’t yielded the types of results or interventions to reduce the anxiety of citizens who leave home wondering whether they will return safe, or who will be the next homicide victim, where and when.

Countries are also learning that even though youth are at the center of the gun-related crime, keeping students off the streets after school or youth off the streets at night makes no contribution to their better understanding of the benefits of non-violent approaches to conflict resolution. Or, for that matter, by ‘better arming’ more police officers, or fitting them with ‘body cams’ for transparency purposes.

Youth interventions must be holistic, direct and open, with give-and-take approaches that include at least as much listening as lecturing. Like women, youth and children must be seen and treated like the majorities they are and not mere minorities in a whole.

Solutions to crime are not textbook in nature. Criminals tend to be smarter in their trade than honest persons thinking about making an honest living. Solutions will always vary, as criminals will always change strategies and tactics as fast as (and most times even faster than) the police detect and solve them.

Many countries are also recognizing that prisons are where some of the finest criminal minds laze and are therefore taking steps and learning more about the constant evolution and changing nature of crime from convicted criminals.

It’s not all well and good for governments to simply pass the buck on major crimes that cause worries and fear to more and more people, or for people to simply give-up and surrender to the sorrowful regret that nothing can be done.

Major crime is no minor matter.

And it will be reduced effectively, not only if and when the police arrest criminals, but when the factors are created to truly engage all affected and all involved in meaningful searches for solutions.

All must be done to change the new norm by combining old and new forms with real fresh starts and approaches that learn from history and actual reality to plan way ahead for the near and distant future.

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