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Crime, citizens, the media and politics

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Practically every citizen of this country, including those residing abroad must have some level of concern about the proliferation of violent crime in our society.

The murders keep occurring accompanied by a worrying failure to obtain convictions in several prominent cases for one reason or another. Some murders are still unsolved.

There is therefore every reason to voice concerns yet it is important that, firstly, we do not panic or get hysterical to the point where we lose focus and react irrationally. The context of this continuing spate of violent crime is also important and our reactions cannot be driven by considerations other than those of safety and security. We must be prepared to face up to the fact that we do have a problem, but, small comfort though it might be, that problem is not unique to us.

That does not mean that we must downplay our predicament by contending that our Caribbean neighbours face similar social and security problems. While that is so, it merely explains the wider context and does not absolve us from seeking solutions specific to our own threat. It tells us that broader issues are involved which we must take into consideration in trying to find solutions.

It would be a grave error therefore if we either try to downplay the extent of the threat to our safety or well-being or try to minimize it by seeking comfort in the fact that it may be worse in this or that country around us. We do have a problem and a serious one at that. Yet it calls for far more than our responses so far in order for us to deal with it. We have to not only face up to reality but also to try and understand the nature of the threat.

One major complication for our society is the way in which the media – print, electronic and social, handles the situation. We have now reached the stage where news from these sources is heavily skewed in terms of reports on crime incidents. We begin each morning, whether on Facebook or radio programmes with some discussion of what crime took place overnight. It continues through the week on the more traditional media.

Even media houses, like my own beloved SEARCHLIGHT, seem to be falling prey to this. Just as it is said that “sex sells”, so it appears that our media’s lodestar is “crime sells”. We are becoming hooked on this, as a society and, more and more, the old teaching drubbed into persons of my generation that “crime does not pay”, has a hollow and hypocritical sound to it. How do you convince young people, the biggest perpetrators of the criminal violence that this is true when, not only criminals are murdering with impunity, but they are getting away with it to the extent that they can afford to brag, that young men openly speak of “putting down a wuk”, meaning murder, as easily as if it is a construction project?

We seek to blame everyone else for the situation, but there is no recognition of the need to accept personal responsibility. Persons who commit big “white collar” crimes are given respect for their economic power and courted by those who should know better. These in turn have their connections and enforcers. We communicate with each other about who is responsible for this or that crime, but are reluctant to provide information to help catch the criminals. In the process we become double victims, of fear and potentially of criminal acts.

There is another aspect, not limited to SVG. It is in politicking around crime. We have witnessed it again and again in the Caribbean- in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and of course, right here at home. Governments talk of what strong measures they are taking on crime, (“tough on crime” the ULP government says), while the Opposition charges otherwise. But when that Opposition becomes Government, the same situation perpetuates. Does it not tell us that the matter goes far deeper than such simplistic and opportunist analysis?

Crime, violent crime in particular, is a serious threat to peace, security and well-being of our citizens. It is a threat to our rounded social and economic development. We have to each take responsibility for contributing to the fight against it. Our media and politicians have an important role to play. Will we and them, live up to our collective responsibilities?

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