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Crime and its implications

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01.FEB.11

Editor: The level of crime and the nature of the crime carried out in St.Vincent and the Grenadines on a per capita basis seems to suggest that this country is fast becoming another Jamaica.{{more}}

Many may disagree with this statement, but one has to take into consideration high incidence of murder and robberies in St.Vincent and the Grenadines relative to the size of Jamaica, its population and proximity to the United States or Haiti, where many have sought refuge, incognito, to escape the law after committing serious crimes.

In Jamaica, according to the Gleaner, there were 1,430 murders in 2010, fewer than the record-breaking 1,682 in 2009. Major crimes dropped from 11,939 to 11,062.

In the St.Vincent and the Grenadines, there were 24 murders. Data on serious robberies was not ascertained, but it is sizeable.

No one would have imagined that St.Vincent and Grenadines would have ‘drive by shootings’ or cars stolen, which since can’t be found, as transpired in Prospect, in such a small country.

After numerous robberies on the beach, it was astounding to hear the police asking Vincentians to abstain from going on the beach in the night. This was a practice that could have been done without any trepidation in the 1980’s and the 1990’s.

Many Vincentians may think it is easy to identify those who are predisposed to carrying out crime in this country, just by the way they carry themselves or dress. However, this may raise ethical issues, such as the rights of the individual. It may also give rise to accusation of labeling, which many sociologists are against.

Most law abiding citizens have perceptions of how one should conduct and carry himself. Many criticize those who adopt the America gangster dress style of sagging – wearing their pants way below their waists, exposing their boxer shorts. Many twist their hair into plaits – clearly not manifesting themself as part of the Rasta faith. However, that may be a morbid assessment in rationalizing those who may commit crime.

It is palpable that the level of crimes perpetrated is symptomatic of the shortcomings of society. Poverty, single parent households or visiting relations resulting in weak parental control and high unemployment – are factors that foster crime. Anyhow, the large number of Vincentians who have their hair twisted in locks may make it a difficult proposition to assess those predisposed to committing crimes.

Too often we are dismissive in satisfying ourselves that these young men are lazy and don’t want to work. However, do we have the institutions where they can learn a skill? In the past, the Technical College never instituted stipulations as to the number of subjects required for entrance into that institution. Today five subjects, including English, may not suffice selection.

The Technical institutes, which were to capture those persons without O’levels have now raised the bar, stipulating someone must complete up to form 3 in a secondary school.

Many of these persons unable to gain entry are thus confined to labouring jobs and low wage jobs, which do not offer much incentive to work.

We are all getting older by the day and many of us in the twilight of our lives will thus become easy target or fodder for criminals.

It may be locals today and foreigners tomorrow. We are very dependent on tourism, hence any distraction such as crime, can result in immense damage to the tourist industry and the economy.

Farmers are also experiencing the effects of crime through predial larceny. Too often farmers complain of their animals or crops being stolen. A system of verification of goods or meat bought and sold should be adopted.

What mechanism can or should be put in place to deal with the high level of murder and robbery that prevails in society? By inference we should not comfort ourselves, because the incidence of murder has fallen in a given year, that we are seriously tackling crime. This gives the belief to some that crime only involves murder.

Do we have solutions for solving crimes? Are our police officers sufficiently competent in solving crimes? Is the Judiciary too lenient in sentencing?

It may not be too long before most governments around the world start to take the DNA profile of its subjects and have them stored in a database. Many developed countries already have the DNA profile of those convicted in a database. Here in St.Vincent and the Grenadines, samples for DNA have to be sent to Trinidad and Tobago to analyzed, which takes around two weeks to return.

The adoption cameras may also be another possible option which we may have to adopt in the future. Britain is inordinately transformed in this manner, raising ethical concerns of privacy of the individual.

Neil Gipson

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