THE SHOOTING incident in Belmont which resulted in the injury of three students speaks to at least two things: the high circulation of guns and the vulnerability of schools to the misdeeds of criminals, who clearly have no hesitation in opening fire among young ones. Both must be urgently addressed.
Wednesday’s shooting underlined the brazenness of the criminal elements and raises questions about the adequacy of measures to protect key areas. The incident took place on the Belmont Circular Road, a busy road which is lined by several government and denominational schools, as well as churches and other assembly points frequented by thousands. All are a stone’s throw from the Belmont Police Station. If this could happen in such a location, where can our children be safe?
Families must already contend with having to enact increasingly onerous measures to keep loved ones secure. Gone are the days of students walking home, even over short distances. But clearly, parents dropping off and picking up their children directly from school premises is not enough to guarantee safety.
Serious questions have already been raised this year over the adequacy of security arrangements inside schools. In February, the principal of the Tunapuna Hindu School was assaulted on the school compound. In May, a teacher of St Pius Boys RC was assaulted in her classroom in full view of other teachers and students. Danger inside school, and now danger outside school too.
We must count ourselves lucky that we did not see, with this incident, a repeat of the 2016 double murder of Success Laventille Secondary School students Denelson Smith, 17, and Mark Richards, 16. But things could have easily gone otherwise.
The proliferation of bomb threats to schools is another aspect of the distressing context students must now operate in. Because nothing can be taken for granted, even idle threats stretch resources to the limit, putting law enforcement authorities on wild goose chases.
For the sake of the schoolchildren, let us look at what can be done to remove guns from the streets, to intercept those who would seek to breach the law and provoke havoc, and to punish people who waste police time, and therefore endanger the public through their callous actions.
The Police Service must review the circumstances surrounding Wednesday’s incident with a view to identifying failings. One question which must be asked is the degree to which an even greater police presence on our streets is required.
We must rally in defence of our society. It is quite clear criminals don’t care. But we do.