IT’S FAIR to say the much-touted “crime talks” have stalled. The talks were initially put off for the budget debate, but those proceedings have long ended. The Prime Minister flew to Canada and has now gone to Saudi Arabia and will be away on more official business until December. Meanwhile, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, the Opposition Leader, made a trip abroad last month, there being no evident need for her to stay put.
If there is hope – and we think there will always be hope; it is never too late for people to overcome their differences – it is as slender as the burning wick in a deya.
As our politicians correspond on things like the constitution of their respective delegations, the nature of the agenda and the format of the talks, the savage onslaught of murders continues.
One of the latest involved a man being shot dead on Monday not far from the steps of the Belmont Police Station. That station, incidentally, was built at a cost of $16 million by the State and is a stone’s throw away from the official residences of the PM and the President.
Belmont is one of the oldest communities in this country. It is a place once associated with freedom. Today, its residents, both itinerant and permanent, cower in fear, not knowing if the explosions outside are bamboo bursting or guns going off. A group of young men were mowed down in a drive-by shooting just off the Belmont Circular Road – the main artery of the community – only a few weeks ago.
It is a siege being experienced in towns all over the country.
But if our politicians are paralysed, our communities must not be.
Neighbourhoods must mobilise. We can no longer afford to wait for legislators to pass laws or for firearms licences to be issued. By this we do not mean we must turn to vigilante justice. Rather, we mean to point out that fighting crime is not just about guns and laws.
All the research available shows the factors that breed criminality are community-level: social, economic, and educational. Communities need to unite to counter poverty and inequity, unemployment, and the availability of drugs.
In the past, ground-level action has worked. For example, the Citizen Security Programme funded by the Inter-American Development Bank reportedly saw a 46 per cent reduction in murders in targeted towns back in 2014. That was a government project. Now, the private sector and stakeholders across the country must unite to target criminals not with force, but with guile, care and community-based action.
We may be afraid to speak up and speak out. We may not wish to peep from behind the curtains. We must overcome such fears. We have been left with no choice.