Under siege

A boy killed at a birthday party. A pundit killed at home after prayers. A priest robbed at a church. A girl raped at school. A doubles vendor killed getting ready for work. Two men shot at a gas station. Thousands of commuters at the mercy of a handful of Beetham residents.

Criminals do not discriminate.

In a perverse fulfilment of our national anthem, every creed and race is today under attack. What is the cause? There are many opinions, few solutions.

Some say crime is due to socio-economics. Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley last week linked frustration among Beetham residents to “difficult times” in the local economy. Poverty, unemployment, poor education may have caused a breakdown of law and order.

Yet, how do we explain lower murder rates during the 1980s when our economy was in deep crisis? How do we account for lower murder rates in bygone decades when an older generation of citizens did not enjoy the standard of living enjoyed today?

Perhaps those who say crime is a matter of values have the proper diagnosis. People have become inhumane, they say.

Criminals have thrown out the sanctity of human life. It is now expected that a victim will comply with a criminal’s demands and must then beg for their life. Resistance is futile.

But how do we explain the fact that most people resident in hotspot neighbourhoods deplore the violence they see around them? Beetham residents are ashamed over last week’s developments.

Does the situation in our prisons have an impact? There is the belief that conditions there radicalise people on remand. Charged people, whether innocent or not, endure delays, poor physical conditions and violence. The role of deportees is also believed to be relevant. Still, not each crime will have a link to prison.

Many argue guns are at the heart of the matter and call for tougher legal restrictions.

However, criminals are already using guns obtained through unauthorised means.

Others, like former senior superintendent Johnny Abraham, think guns are the solution and that we should empower people to protect themselves.

It is time for a new dialogue on crime. This dialogue must be premised on facts. It should not be inflected by politics. Nor should it be purely academic.

The tired rhetoric of enforcing the law to the fullest extent, of an all-out assault on criminals is not working.

Profound social intervention is required.

Today, citizens are fearful of going about their daily business.

If we do not act urgently we will remain under siege.


"Under siege"

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