TODAY, I AM thinking about the significance of Easter Monday. You don’t have to be a Christian marking the first day after Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday to appreciate the symbolism inherent in this holiday. Religion aside, this holiday hopefully reminds us of our duty to resurrect this society from the vice-like grip of crime.
It’s not naive to think that we can mark a line in the sand and say, “Enough is enough. We are reclaiming this country.” We owe that to all of the people who have been killed in this country. We owe this to ourselves. Political platitudes will never save us, nor will endless complaining on social media, which falls by the wayside once tempers calm down.
It takes commitment and collaboration to solve our problems, and we begin by admitting that we are all responsible for change. Crime is not just government’s problem. Even though we sometimes feel marginalised, we are not helpless victims. We are a powerful force once we recognise that we all have something to offer in the fight against crime.
No positive act is insignificant. Any community-based project, from homework supervision to beautifying a school and purchasing books for school libraries, can help fight crime. Use your imagination and make your presence known, and if you really don’t feel you have the time, donate what you can to an NGO. They always need money.
Just know that community service is good for the soul. It helps strengthen communities, breaks down the barriers that divide us and creates another level of meaning to your life.
On the other hand, the Government needs to figure out how to handle the uneasy relationship between police and civilians. There’s no denying that the divide-and-rule mentality of colonialism still haunts our society.
There are so many questions to answer.
How can the Government build trust in a police service that is often perceived as uncaring? How much does the Government understand about the people they arrest? I had hoped that Kim Johnson’s documentary on my book Wishing for Wings would interest government ministers and the police, but no one showed up when the documentary debuted at the International School of Port of Spain.
How can we improve crime detection rates and make every citizen feel safe and willing to co-operate with the police?
We should be learning from gang leaders’ success in reaching young, at-risk teens. What are they seeing that the rest of the country is missing? What is the emotional, economic and educational support that at-risk youth need and why are we not providing that?
We have not begun to deal with crime effectively because we are reacting to our problems rather than being proactive about them. We don’t solve crime with more police officers, more police vehicles, more arrests and more court cases. We certainly don’t solve problems from ivory towers – or in our case, those glass high-rises with stunning ocean views.
Years ago when we had a Ministry of Justice, I remember waiting for a meeting and noting huge, well-decorated Christmas trees in every department, I thought about how many certified barbering classes, PVC furniture-making and decorative tiling classes my NGO, the Wishing for Wings Foundation, could have run with the money spent on all of those trees. Stop wasting money.
There is no way to build trust in our communities if we don’t address the long delays in court cases. It’s not unusual for cases to take more than a decade to go through the court system. Those delays make too many people in this country feel that we are not a country that believes you are innocent until proven guilty.
In prisons the term “restorative justice” is tossed around as an important measure in dealing with crime, but there often seems to be little understanding of the concept. Sending some inmates from women’s prison to paint old women’s nails in nursing homes at Christmas is a nice gesture, but it’s not restorative justice.
For that to take place there must be a meaningful communication process between the perpetrators and victims of crime that results in empathy, a mutual understanding of the hurt and harm caused and community-based project that is mutually beneficial to the community. It must make amends and create inroads to reintegrating an inmate back into the community.
Clearly we have many issues to ponder this Easter Monday when we think of the concept of resurrecting this country. Have a blessed day. Think about your contribution to crime prevention.