Over and over, SEARCHLIGHT and other sections of the media have raised the ugly spectre of violent crime in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) and the damaging effects it is having on our society in every way imaginable. We try not to be alarmist about it but the continued prevalence of this scourge forces us to again return to the topic.
While it is true that the wave of violence is not restricted to our country alone and that we are not the worst in this regard in the Caribbean, that is hardly of any comfort to the victims of violent crime and their aggrieved families. Those not yet directly affected are equally worried, wondering when it might be their turn, given the fact that the spate of violent crime shows little signs of abating.
There are two especially worrying aspects of the crime wave, both related to the nature of the victims. One is the number of women among the recent victims of violent crime, whether by way of domestic violence or open violent and sexual attacks. Three women have been killed in the past month.
The other is the class nature of the crimes where victims are concerned in the case of armed robbery. Almost exclusively these attacks have been against the poorer sections of our society including small shopkeepers and entrepreneurs. The cowardly nature of the robbers is manifested in their reluctance to pick better guarded targets even though the possible proceeds from any such successful attack ought to be a greater incentive. Significantly, Prime Minister and Minister of National Security Dr Ralph Gonsalves, has publicly made this observation.
The wanton taking of human life reveals a callous disregard for the sanctity of it and represents a grave threat to our individual and collective well-being. It is also a gross violation of the human rights of the victims, most specifically, the sacred right to life. Very disturbing is the fact that most of the alleged perpetrators of these crimes are young males; what implications does this have for our society as a whole?
So we are at a stage of virtually tearing our hairs out, what do we do? What CAN we do?
At an official level we have been given assurances time and again that there is no cause for alarm. Press conferences and official statements have been made both by the Prime Minister himself and the top brass of the Police Force, yet the threat remains. There is hardly any sense of greater safety and the fears remain unaddressed.
In the mean time the greater danger is that crime can become another political football. We are at a loss as to why there is not official acknowledgement that we do have a grave social problem, one which CANNOT and WILL NOT be solved by the Government and Police alone. Nor will the “Vote for us to solve the problem”, pushed by some elements in the Opposition, assist in finding a solution. It is time for a broader, all-encompassing approach involving the social sectors as well as both sides of Parliament.
It is time to recognize the danger and seek broad solutions.