Annus horribilis

Commissioner of Police McDonald Jacob - ROGER JACOB
Commissioner of Police McDonald Jacob - ROGER JACOB

WITH JUST under a month to go, the year 2022 is already one for the record books – and not in a good way.

The murder toll has long passed 500 and the statistics suggest a record has already been broken for the highest number of killings in a single year.

By any standards, it has been an annus horribilis.

Mothers have lost sons. Fathers have lost daughters. Children have died before parents and have watched parents die.

While many factors could explain this year’s dramatic escalation in the murder rate, what is unquestionable is the need for an escalation in the overall response from the Government to the crime situation.

But authorities may seek to claim that “serious crime” is down. They may say the situation is not nearly as bad as it seems, and that the police are doing an excellent job. They may also point to the flow of guns into the country and finger a breakdown of the moral fabric over the long term.

They cannot have it both ways. They cannot claim everything is okay while also proffering simplistic and untested explanations.

We feel it is relevant to note that the state of the economy is such that the conditions for crime are ripe. The situation is arguably worse than that after the global sub-prime mortgage collapse of 2007, which precipitated the previous record-high murder rate in 2008.

There has also been an unprecedented level of both sanctioned and unsanctioned movements of people between this country and Venezuela.

Whatever the causes, the State’s response has been scattershot. It has veered from blaming absent fathers to foreign powers.

It has correctly suggested guns are a major factor, but it has not offered a coherent plan to tackle the problem.

“Most firearms are coming through legal ports of entry,” acting Commissioner of Police McDonald Jacob claimed at a Parliament committee sitting this week.

If this is true, why have we not solved this problem to date?

The authorities know the picture is far more complicated.

Only a few weeks ago, Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds lamented the breakdown in the measures relating to legal guns already in the country.

Meanwhile, the figures simply don’t add up.

Mr Jacob this week said 124,000 requests had been made “on paper” in the past three years to import firearms, with Customs and Excise data so far showing 17,000 had entered the country.

We cannot go into the year 2023 without a sense of some real plan of action to address law-breaking and to reform the criminal justice system.


"Annus horribilis"

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