IT’S STARTLING to realise one community alone has borne the burden of 1,318 murders since 2008. But Laventille’s death toll, laid bare on Tuesday by Laventille East MP Fitzgerald Hinds, is just the tip of the iceberg.
The police statistics do not include woundings and shootings which have also wreaked havoc with lives, leaving some paralysed.
And while analysis by specific locations is an important prism through which to view the crime situation, it’s use is limited without information in relation to other locations across TT. One murder is one too many, but without contextual information, it's difficult to properly analyse the figures.
Whatever the overall picture, the focus must not be on only numbers. We need to look beyond the statistics. We need to start confronting the social problems that have facilitated the perfect storm.
Crucially, we need to resist the danger of perpetuating the negative stereotypes that feed into the problem. Stigma is almost as equally dangerous as the guns used to carry out these crimes. “What you think, you become,” goes the old adage attributed to Buddha.
We must acknowledge that about 93 per cent of the murders in Laventille were committed with guns. The rest were carried out with sharp instruments or involved blunt force.
Guns are not manufactured in Laventille, suggesting the problem does not emanate from the nexus of suffering, but is a result of larger forces. What is being done to stem the gun trade?
What is painful about all of this is Laventille’s rich history of contributing to the overall fabric of our society, from the blue limestone used to shore up our colonial-era buildings and reclaim the land facing the capital’s port, to the birth of the steelband movement.
Outstanding daughters and sons of the soil have walked its streets, and Nobel laureate Derek Walcott immortalised its “its miraculous hilltop” in verse.
Hinds has called on Laventille residents to take responsibility for their actions.
“This thing got to stop and we got to stop it,” he said.
Fostering a sense of pride and defiance is certainly an important factor. But it will take more than just inspiring words to break the chains of the vicious cycles that often ensnare marginalised communities.
We need to address matters that go beyond Laventille and relate to the core of who we are as a people.
A system in which there is a disconnect between potential and opportunity; where the criminal justice system is buckling under pressure; where the State’s penal institutions are ill-suited to rehabilitation; where resentment and frustration easily boil over due to vast disparities; where hope itself is almost gone – such a situation is an even bigger impediment to Laventille’s progress.