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Shut down the strip of tears

Shut down the strip of tears

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In Rose Place at the very end of Bay Street there is a strip of land of no more than 18 yards that is separated by two gutters. The first gutter marks the end of Bay Street itself. This gutter is an extraordinary filth infested cesspool of standing water, waste, dead things, and of course a breeding ground for mosquitoes with all the attendant harm that flows from this terrible combination of poverty and poor sanitary choices that afflict this neighbourhood. Any human who lives under these conditions is therefore at risk for a shortened life span due to the range of pathogens to which they are exposed every minute of every day.

Yet people actually live under these conditions. In fact the shacks which have sprung up all along the Rose Place beach line have completely blotted out the beach where Rose Place residents once played football, cricket, swam, and indeed caught fish in the seine boats which once plied these waters. And because all of these shacks are less than 15 yards from the water, all of them and the persons living in them are at deep risk of being inundated by the sea during one of our storms. We know the storms will come. But we do not know the day and time.

These two threats of water inundation and disease offer sufficient reason to remove all buildings in that 18 yard strip of land between the gutters at the very end of Rose Place. We would be saving lives. However, because these lethal threats manifest themselves over time, our health and building authorities have simply ignored the crying need to act quickly and efficiently to eliminate the threat. Indeed, our electrical authorities have facilitated building shacks in these dangerous conditions by extending power to the various owners of the shacks.

In the past two years, however, a third threat has emerged which is urgent, lethal, and simply cannot be ignored. Too many of these beach buildings have become a sanctuary for criminals. Rose Place has been the scene of mayhem and murder that has baffled police, terrorized its residents, and indeed has sent a chill of fear across the nation. Yet in the midst of this vortex of violence one commonality has emerged: the beachfront shacks have served as the staging ground for multiple crimes.

This was nowhere better illustrated than in the murder that unfolded last Saturday and the two shootings that took place about three weeks ago. In both instances that 18-yard strip of land figured prominently as the arena where the violent and deadly struggles unfolded. Every single resident in Rose Place knows this and the Police know it too since in the wake of these crimes, their investigations and security operations have targeted the area. But all of these police operations even though well intentioned are fundamentally reactive. They seek to catch the criminals after the crimes have been committed.

Rose Place residents, however, prefer to prevent the crimes from ever taking place and two ideas are particularly meritorious. The first is that the police should immediately rotate police throughout the day and night in the shop on the strip where the gunmen congregate. In this scenario, the gunmen would vacate the area bringing instant security to a terrorized village. The second idea is a permanent solution: remove all of the buildings from the beach and restore the beach front to Rose Place people.

None of these two ideas call for greater resources than the police already have or greater authority than the government already possesses. But together, they would shut down the Strip of Tears, return Rose Place to law abiding citizens, and send a message to the broader nation that the Government has the will and the means to protect the Vincentian people. And all of this can be done on an 18 yard strip of land owned by the government; not the criminals.

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