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Crime: A certain perception: Part 2

By Dr Velon John

The unbridled freedom and laissez-faire attitude that children are exposed to need to be curtailed. Children need to be disciplined and sanctions need to be applied to parents who are delinquent in the discharge of their parental duties. Children must not be abused by their parents or by adults. Incidentally, I am a proponent of corporal punishment. Adult abuse can take many forms. It can be insidious, psychological and brutish. When for example an adult uses obscene language to a child, that in my opinion constitutes abuse and the adult in question should be charged for the offence of abuse of a child.

As I see it, we are in a state of crisis and enlightened draconian measures must be adopted. The societal equilibrium must be established and maintained. There is a need for societal introspection and we of that society must again look at the mirror.

Perhaps the time has come when a ministry of youth and domestic affairs needs to be created and that has as its mandate remit the wholesome development of our children and young persons. Its concerns should focus on where they live, how they live, what happens at school, what happens after school, what happens during the vacation periods, what happens when they cease being school attendees and what time is spent in spiritual discourse. That is from five to twenty-five years old.

All of that must be focused upon, for parenting is too serious a responsibility to be left only or solely to parents. Parenting must become a government responsibility. And what pellucidly must be understood, is that we as a society, and in our individual maturational posture, must look not only at the “climate of crime” but we must look at the “climate for crime”.

And so, what comes to mind at this juncture, was the partial relocation of the Conway Community a few years ago. What essentially was done in that noisome social environment was the clearing of tracks of bush and huts, and virtually reconstructing hovels amidst tree trunks and decaying vegetation. The modern and civilised amenities were virtually non-existent. The quality of life of the transferees were not positively and meaningfully impacted upon, and what one eventually saw was a replication of a degrading and debasing settlement that once scarred the waterfront of Trou-Garnier.

And so in that emerging community, I saw a morbid convergence of the CLIMATE OF CRIME with the CLIMATE FOR CRIME. A grotesque social experiment for and of human habitation. What should have been done besides putting in the requisite physical infrastructure, and certainly not on a Neanderthal level, was the provision of the basic amenities of civilised living with the introduction of police and social services to that budding community.

Aspects of community policing should have been abundantly evident in all of its prophylactic aspects and community solidarity with social workers should weave themselves into the fabric of this sub-community; so that family cohesion, edification and parental care and concern would characterise the modus vivendi of this transferred settlement. And emerging therefrom would have been a functional intimacy between the professional public and the domestic sectors of the whole community in the context of law and order.

But that did not happen, that did not take place. And so today, the adults and youth of Gorilla village, and in other settlements, we are confronted in a pugilistic mode with what constitutes the bane of our societal existence. We have not evolved, for there is an acute debilitating disjunction between that sub-community and the rest. A somewhat dystopian social landscape. Salubrious integration, enlightened solidarity and a humanistic social cohesion should characterise our rural, urban domestic spaces: but to the contrary, what I see and experience is a world of alarming lawlessness and disorder.

We are at this time mired in a plethora of criminal events and as a society, we stand still, impotent, frustrated and frightened. Who is to be blamed? We are all complicit in this situation which at this time can be described as the breakdown of law and order. Human life seems to have no value. You only have to make $300.00 on the block available. And even of lesser value is that which, venereally speaking, defines human feminity. Crime defines and describes many a community, and perhaps to your bewilderment it further describes your island home as a whole.

We must save the generation that is now in attendance in the pre-schools and primary schools of the nation. A new relationship and responsibility need to be established and devolve between and among the homes. the schools, the churches, civil society and government; but with accountability reposing in government as the guardian of the nation. And it is only in so doing that we can save the five-year-old now sitting on the school chair/benches of our country. For the greater part and beyond the 14-year olds are almost lost. They need to be contained, and creative strategies need to be devised to deal with amoral crime. And those who fall into that category their last hope is Bordelais Correctional Facility.

If we fail in all of this, as we are presently failing, we shall witness an endless and relentless stream of young persons marching resolutely into the arena of crime and violence as the millennium passes us by; and with it the hope and survival of our society. Regrettably, one arm or organ of our society has already failed us. Good people, the Churches have failed us.

We have to stop that stream and contemporaneous therewith deal with amoral crime among young persons in the homes, the schools, the ghettoes and by-ways of this nation. But all of this implies new laws and the enforcement of old and new laws. All of this implies a certain intrusion on the part of churches, schools, civil society, and other public and private institutions that deal with youth writ large. That is from five to twenty-five. And at last and specifically, all of this implies community policing in its essence and not in its adulterated, expedient and half-baked form as presently evidenced.

What needs to be understood is that community policing is not a public relations exercise. It is a working situation where the police work in cooperation with the community and not for it. The community shares the responsibility of dealing with crime and the maintenance of law and order. Hence joint police-community committees need to be established as formal mechanisms to deal with those relevant problems in each community. And all levels of the police should be vigorously involved in this conversation: but the police would provide the leadership in facilitating effective cooperative efforts, thus enhancing crime prevention and the maintenance of law and order.

As has been stated the basis for successful community policing is the establishment of mechanisms for dialogue, information exchange and consultation between the police and the citizenry. And in conjunction therewith are the formal mechanisms that provide a network of contacts within the community, and permit ongoing communication between the parties.

The police on their own will never be able to solve all of the problems of crime in any one community. The aetiology of crime in its multifarious manifestations precludes that. The police will arrest, charge and prosecute when they can: but they will not win the fight against crime. The perennial human condition precludes that also. Society in its innate, intrinsic complexity can only aspire to reach the stars but not the heavens. 

The bottom line is this: the maintenance of law and order is the responsibility of all of us since we are all responsible got its provenance.

And as I pontificated in times past:

  • Crime is everywhere.
  • But the Police is not everywhere.
  • So how can that which is not everywhere
  • Contain that which is everywhere?

When I look at the future, the children, the adolescents, the young ones: I ask myself, are they the key:

  • What is their role in our dubious evolution?
  • Is it to unlock that which is ahead of us or to lock down the past into the present?
  • Will they be society’s liberators; to unfold the sublime and elevating potential of our world: or will they be the anchor that will drag us down, including themselves, into the stygian darkness and depths of criminality and violence?

Time is of the essence and the children must be saved even from themselves, for they are the hope of mankind. Where are they: where are they now?

And so, concerning the youth of Faux-a-Chaux, Monkey Town, Cap Estate, the Bacadere and Bacafie and elsewhere the refrain that should blanket our communities is this:

  • Parents do you know where your children are?
  • Does that suffice?

For the contagion is all perversive – all ubiquitous. Are they at the Sab, Pigeon Point, the Gardens, etc.,? They are here, there and everywhere but at home. But even then that is a delusion, a pathetic hope. For if I had asked that gentle father at Balata for the whereabouts of his son that tragic evening, his heart-rendering reply would be this. He is at home murdered. That is the crisis of our times. They are there all around us; some have already committed themselves while others are there criminals in waiting, with guns in hand. And the question that now comes to mind is this: where and how a 19-year-old youth finds or accesses a gun. Even an AK40 rifle?

Guns are not manufactured in this country and therefore all firearms of whatever type have been imported. They are extra-territorial. And in this matter of importation, there are just two categories. Lawful and illicit. Concerning the former, it should be unlawful for anyone to be in possession of a gun in Saint Lucia unless it is through a designated Police Police Agency. In other words a Security Establishment, a Guntraining School should only be able to access firearms through the requisite Police Agency. There should be no other avenue.

As regards the placement of guns that should be in an armoury: a place where guns are stored. And all armouries wheresoever situate and whether big or small should be periodically audited by designated police officers. And those audits should be carried out without notice at least three times a year. In this way, the inventory of guns on the island would be monitored. The police armoury is not exempted. With regard to illicit firearms, vigilance and intelligence should be the operative terms. The police have got to be vigilant and their intelligence capability should and could be enhanced and augmented. Community policing is pivotal.

Another component in the strategy of dealing with the unlawful possession of firearms is “deterrence”. The public must be deterred and that can only be achieved through the instrumentality of creative draconian measures. GUNS KILL!!!!

The offence of unlawful possession should not be bailable. Once arrested the offender must be detained until his or her day in Court. And on conviction, a term of imprisonment should be mandatory. And in this regard, there should be two periods of time and one type of time. Five years and ten years in one instance and “HARD TIME” in the other. And by the hard time I mean, if you are sentenced to five years in November 2021 then your date of release is November 2026.

There should be no intervention, be it for good behaviour, governmental or judicial to reduce the five or ten year period of incarceration. Ten years will be ten years. To put all this in its proper perspective there are two things to be considered. One, the country is in a state of crisis and two GUNS KILL. There have been and will be gunfights in the very heart of our communities and the police must be in the vanguard of these ballistic encounters. And to date, the police have failed miserably.

As I have already stated crime is a multifarious phenomenon that impacts negatively, debilitatively on the quality of life of all societies. And in consequence, thereof all agencies, official, unofficial secular and spiritual should be engaged on their level in the fight against this scourge in all of its manifestations. In reiteration and in conclusion, I repeat. We are mired in a reptilian state of crisis and our youth, in particular, their dreams, their aspirations, their potentialities and possibilities are all caught up in the malevolent and deadly coils of the python.

That ladies and gentlemen end my presentation on crime. A Certain Perception. I sincerely hope that among the grains of my thoughts you will have discerned a pearl of wisdom – and of truth.                            

Related: Part 1



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