Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley struck the right note in his address to the nation on Sunday when he urged citizens to keep hope alive as the nation seeks to win the war on crime. Rowley did not skirt around the issue by hiding behind statistics. He demonstrated unusual frankness when he acknowledged reports of, “the continued murderous scourge on our land.”
“I want to appeal to all citizens to keep hope alive,” the Prime Minister said. “We must and we will win this war on crime.” Rowley, who chairs the National Security Council, took the unusual step of indicating that “new approaches” are at work at the Strategic Services Agency (SSA). Without delving too deeply into this, he reported “a new energy” beginning to charge the ranks of the Police Service.
“Already we are seeing improvements in response and detections,” the Prime Minister said. But it was not all a bed of roses. He plainly acknowledged “huge negatives” which still exist.
In the end, the Prime Minister struck the right balance between facing the problem, hinting at sensitive changes, and calling for what is required above all: a positive outlook. Without the latter, we will become paralysed as a society, fearful of living our everyday lives. That fear itself only emboldens the criminals who, confident of their ability to silence witnesses and entire communities, are acting with increasing impunity.
But it will take more than Rowley’s rallying cry to put weary citizens at ease. When the Prime Minister was speaking there had already been almost two-dozen murders for the year. And yesterday more gruesome deaths came to light. The picture is troubling.
Still, there has been some improvement in the detection rate. Some will also take comfort in the fact that last year officers seized 1,064 firearms and 18,000 bullets, while 12,000 arrests were made.
But without reliable statistics, it is hard to say if these gains were drops in the bucket or not. Members of the public will be looking on closely in the coming months. Will reforms yield meaningful improvements? Will our cooperation with international actors make a difference? Much will depend on whether we are able, as a society, to tackle crime from a holistic perspective. The responsibility to do so rests not solely with law enforcement authorities but also members of civil society.
With many of the murders involving battered females, we must change our attitudes to violence against women. That requires more than hope. It calls for a serious approach to gender equality in all facets of life. We must win this battle and must do everything to do so.