Yesterday this editorial dealt with the issue of gun violence in society, particularly in Barbados, and pointed out some of the ways that this country can work to reduce these types of crimes. Suggestions included having a national consultation, amending laws to prohibit not just the use and unlawful access to guns, but also the sharing of images and video related to such crimes, and urging families and parents to instil better moral codes in youths and assist in turning them away from the “wrong crowd”.
In addition to these approaches however, there must also be a pro-active approach by law enforcement to fighting crime. While it is true that the police can only solve a crime after it has been committed, it cannot be enough for officers to show up after bloodshed to analyse a crime scene and seek out witnesses. As such, proactive policing strategies could be beneficial to reducing the spate of gun crime. These strategies include maintaining a visible police presence in neighbourhoods to deter crime and criminal behaviour; actively enforcing laws for all levels of crime before there is a public outcry; and actively communicating to people within communities to increase trust between the Force and citizens.
The Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) has used this method on occasion, most notably at Christmas time in their Operation Yuletide, where they focus on the City and its environs in their crime prevention efforts. And in recent years senior police officers have issued public warnings to criminal elements at the start of the Crop Over season to desist from public skirmishes. However, this is obviously not enough. These proactive efforts must be stepped up and more officers placed on surveillance, especially at Crop Over events.
Crop Over is one of the major foreign exchange earners for this country and its success is vital to the sustainability of the economy. In these challenging economic times, we cannot allow acts of
violence to not only cut away at the soul of this society, but also mar the experiences of visitors to this island. Many of us still carry the horrible memories of last year’s shooting on Spring Garden and already there have been at least two public incidences of violence surrounding festive events in recent weeks. This must not be allowed to continue. These type of incidences may cause people to shy away from the festival in fear for their safety. Therefore, in addition to the police, private promoters must also ensure that sufficient and adequate private security is made available to protect their patrons.
In the final analysis, the fight against violence and gun crime requires a multi-faceted approach. However, suggestions need to be executed and not just proposed. Barbados has a tradition of holding discussions and engaging in dialogue with little or no accompanying action towards resolution. Yes, there may be a need for policies or legislation, which need to be drafted and can take time, but this is not a new issue. Gun crime has been a challenge for some time. There is no need for years of conversation. Attempts to curb it have obviously been inadequate, but that merely requires new actions, not inaction.
Government, law enforcement, and members of the public need to get serious about crime, because if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem.