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In the company of criminals

In the company of criminals

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HEREIN LIES a fundamental truth of crime in St Vincent and the Grenadines: far too many of us have become acclimatised to the presence of crime and violence in our midst.

This adjustment expresses itself in many ways. Some of us have altered our daily routines to make ourselves less of a target for criminals. Others have become so inured to the violence that their capacity to be shocked is increasingly diminished as each week brings new stories of violence. But worst of all, too many of our people have become both witting and unwitting accomplices to these criminals.

None of our nation’s criminals is an island. Each and every one of them has a cohort of friends, family, and allies who are undoubtedly aware of their criminal conduct. In a moral universe that makes clear distinctions between right and wrong, these men and women would spurn the company of criminals. They would refuse to share in the profits of criminal conduct. And they would share with the police the truth that would allow us to put the criminals where criminals belong: behind bars.

We cannot be secure in our homes if some of our people provide safe space for criminals to escape the reach of the law. To withhold information on criminal activity may not be against the law, but offering it up to the police is a moral necessity. A conspiracy of silence obviously benefits the criminal. Equally obvious, it harms the nation. Hence to stay silent and close one eyes to wrong doing makes one complicit in the evil that flows from the guns of criminals.

Vincentians must accept that in the matter of crime and violence, we are the masters of our fate. We choose our friends. And we can unfriend them. We must recognize that social companionship is a critical tool that all societies use to regulate human behaviour. In choosing the companionship of criminals, we give them legitimacy. In rejecting their companionship, we refuse to compromise our own moral standards, we refuse to be complicit in their assault on the well-being of St Vincent and the Grenadines. The government must of course continue to use all legal instruments at its disposal to fight crime. And undoubtedly the churches and non governmental organizations all have roles to play in helping us on this path. But in this moment of crisis, we must invoke the wisdom of our grandparents: you are known by the company you keep. We corrupt our moral compass when we share the company or protect the identity of the depraved who live among us.

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