WE HAVE witnessed a period of heightened alert by law enforcement authorities and Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith has been very visible and vocal: his tough talk has inspired confidence and consternation, depending on who you ask. While we praise the heightened response of the police, the crossing of the 100-mark in the murder toll is a worrying indicator that the battle is far from over.
The police cannot be expected to stem the tide of bloodshed overnight. Strengthening institutions take time. Certainly, the situation is made more difficult by the unwillingness of witnesses to come forward and by the feeling that criminal elements have tightened their hold on communities.
But to cross the 100-mark in only the third month of the year suggests the toll could reach 400 by 2019’s end. That’s worrying.
Whatever the facts behind the killing of 71-year-old pensioner Joseph Phillip, it was certainly a brazen and dastardly act. It occurred in broad daylight at a taxi stand outside of a popular mall. The intended target may have been Phillip, but members of the public could have been harmed too. Passengers in the taxi in which he was seated reportedly had to scurry away.
This cannot stand. It is an assault on the entire society when people are vulnerable in the most ordinary of public spaces.
When it comes to the State’s response to crime, a lot of resources have been devoted to the problem. And there have been important breakthroughs, some of which may not always make it into the public domain. Legislation has bolstered the powers of state agencies, anti-gang laws have been promulgated, plans have been drawn up to outfit the police with new technology.
However, all of this is yet to make the kind of impact that is desired. Something is still not working.
Certainly, the problems in the judiciary do not help. The so-called “justice holiday” this week has come at a time when some question whether justice is ever served at all given the delays that plague the system. Those delays only serve to deepen the impression of people escaping sanction while also potentially punishing the innocent – a toxic combination for a society in which the most vulnerable are the ones who feel the brunt of the law.
Some have said we need more police, but it’s not the number of officers that matters. It’s the attitude and aptitude. In this regard, the absenteeism rate over Carnival suggests there is much room for improvement.
We hope in coming months more progress will be made on all these fronts.