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This Calls for Urgent Attention

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The news from SVG continues to be depressing. In fact, it might be better to say frightening, or even alarming. These are descriptions for many things in SVG, but I want to focus on a particular area. On June 15, there was a murder in Vermont; June 17 one in Belvedere; June 24 one in Mount Wynne. On June 12, according to the News, workers at a restaurant in Paul’s Avenue had a narrow escape.{{more}} It appears that the RSSU was chasing a suspect accused of marijuana possession and a ‘spent shell’ from a shot fired at the man got into the kitchen of the restaurant, narrowly missing the workers there. I had indicated in a previous article that there was a lot of ‘satanic’ talk around, but I noticed, a letter, I believe it was, in one of the papers referring also to the presence in the island of the ‘spirit of jezebel’.

Although all murders should command the same kind of attention, the implications of the one at Belvedere are significant. The victim was Jennifer Lewis, whom we are told had returned from abroad to look after her aging parents. While here, she made a considerable contribution to the cultural sphere with her artistic skills and expertise. This is, however, not the aspect to which I want to draw attention. In recent years, we have had a number of Vincentians returning to SVG, building homes, making investments in different aspects of the life of the country and bringing their particular expertise and experience. What signal does this send to others who are contemplating returning home? There has, in recent times, been a lot of adverse criticisms about our health service. This is obviously an area of immense concern to someone who is retired and is considering returning home. You might argue that the crime situation in the area of the world from which they are coming might be worse than that in SVG, but their hope might have been that they were getting away from it. But to find at home the same situation from which they are running is something else. The small population also means that any murder will impact more heavily on you in this land, because there is always the likelihood that you know either the person or some relative or friend of the person.

I must profess ignorance about the steps that are being put in place to dealwith the increasing criminal activity. We have had prayers for the nation.

There has been a recent demonstration against violence in the country and there are constant appeals to the people of the nation to resist from violence. Although necessary, I am always amused by the latter, because this appeal has little effect on those who commit crimes or are prone to commit crimes. In an article in the Midweek edition of the Searchlight, a group that calls itself “Leave Out Violence in SVG Association (LOVNSVG)” reflected on the root causes of crime, touching on poor parenting skills, peer influence, drugs and alcohol, income and education, the easy availability of hand guns and the discouraging of crime through stepped up security, neighbourhood watches and the presence of more police officers on the street”. So far so good; this article points to a multiplicity of causes, but some of them are long-term. In fact, the article says that “The only way to decrease criminal activity is reformation – remodelling the system (educational, economic, jurisdiction(sic)… that breeds criminal activity is a core necessity.”

There should be little disagreement that a holistic approach is needed and that we have to re-examine all aspects of our society. (I believe that this is what the NDP’s “Redemption Charter” is all about.) But a lot of this is long-term and the matter cries out for urgent attention. So, can we identify measures that could immediately be put into action that might begin to have some impact? The article on “Root Causes of Crime”, while seeing greater police presence as a necessity, drew away from this by stating that our economic health is not at its best and this will affect enrolment in the police force. I share a different opinion. Despite the poor state of our economy, (some persons, however, doubt that this is so), we have to prioritize and put resources into critical areas, bearing in mind, too, that high rates of crime can affect investment in the country. Are there areas into which we are putting money that are not priority areas? The talk of increased police presence is not new. I might be wrong with this, but I am not conscious of any increased police presence on the streets.

Whatever it is, something has to be done urgently. I am assuming that when we hold rallies against crime and violence that part of the objective is to mobilize people with the intention not only of making their own contribution, but also of putting pressure on the authorities to take action. One sometime gets the impression, however, that the government thinks that this is completely out of their control.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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