IN St Lucia today crime and violence should be of concern to everyone. Our people can no longer dismiss this problem as if it were a matter only for government administration and legislators. Criminal activity is probably the single biggest threat to our society today. It is true – victims of crime and violence can be found amongst all ages and socio-economic status. Many people believe that the drug trade has spurred much of this problem, but criminal activities involving children are also rampant and cold-blooded murder is on the increase. Domestic violence, housebreaking, rape and praedial larceny continue to plague us as if there was no end to our problems.
In order to understand our current situation we need to examine the country’s very recent past. In 2012, St Lucia had a murder rate of 21.6 per 100,000 of the population. There were a total of 39 murders in Saint Lucia in 2012. In 2017, there were 60 homicides recorded in Saint Lucia.
A few years ago, St Lucia was ranked as one of the top 10 most dangerous cruise destinations in the world. It was reported that 69 cruise passengers were robbed at gun point on just two excursions. On December 14, 2015, an American couple was robbed by two men carrying a kitchen knife and a machete. In January 2014, a British couple was robbed on board their yacht while it was moored off Vieux Fort in St Lucia when the husband (Roger Pratt) was murdered. In 2013, 55 cruise ship passengers were robbed at gunpoint during the day at the Botanical Gardens in Soufriere.
Yes we have problems! But several factors generally influence the incidence of crime and violence in any community, society or country. These include economic and political circumstances that produce opportunities and incentives for criminal behaviour and violent acts. Social and cultural factors also exacerbate or mediate crime. In some cities, for example Mangala in India, violence is so accepted in the people’s daily lives that it has become the norm for many ghetto dwellers. By comparison, in Hong Kong and other parts of East and Southeast Asia, family values and a generally compliant ‘pro-social’ population are major factors in keeping crime and violence low. Other factors associated with crime and violence include poverty, unemployment, inequality, intergenerational transmission of violence as reflected in the continuous witnessing of parental abuse during childhood, the rapid pace of urbanization, poor urban planning, design and management, growth in youthful population, and the concentration of political power, which facilitates corruption.
We must never neglect the poor amongst us. On a consistent basis, we need to provide for them the basic needs: food, shelter and clothing. Poverty is an important factor associated with increased crime and violence. While crime may be seen as a survival alternative in the face of grinding poverty, there are poor communities where crime levels are low because behaviour is constrained by informal social and cultural values. Inequality may be a more important underlying factor in the perpetration of crime and violence than poverty per se. Unemployment is a fundamental issue related to crime and violence rates among young people. The World Bank estimates that 74 million people between the ages of 15 and
24 are unemployed, which accounts for 41 per cent of all unemployed persons. Most research suggests that unemployed youths are disproportionately more likely to be perpetrators, as well as victims of crime and violence. The growing gap between the richest and poorest members of society as well, is even more important than levels of poverty in affecting crime and violence. Closely associated with inequality are key exclusionary factors relating to unequal access to employment, education, health and basic infrastructure.
Many experts subscribe to the notion that the transition to political democracy is a cause for increased violent crimes. Reporting on observed trends in 44 mostly industrialized countries over a 50-year period, research indicates that global homicide rates have grown at about the same time as there have been significant increases in political democracy. Evidence to support this contention comes from researchers tracking significantly increased homicides in Latin America following widespread political change of the region during the 1990s.
Poor urban planning, design and management have increasingly been cited as playing a role in the shaping of urban environments that put citizens and property at risk. Therefore, the physical fabric and layout of cities have a bearing on the routine movements of offenders and victims and on opportunities for crime. It has been estimated that 10 to 15 per cent of crimes have environmental design and management components. Some surveys show that conditions supporting the growth of organized crime, such as globalization of markets, are important factors. These types of sophisticated communications technology however are not likely to diminish in the near future. Closely related to globalization in addition is the deportation of criminals to their countries of origin. This phenomenon, which is common in Latin America and the Caribbean, where offenders are deported from the USA, partially accounts for increasing levels of youth crime and gang-related activities in the region.
What should be our first response to the plague of crime and violence? We need to strengthen our family and life values. Teach our children the importance of moral values and the belief in God. Show them how to live the Christian Faith by way of example. We need to help the poor! Above all we as a people need to move away from the lust and greed for the material things of the world and money. There must be a united front on the fight against crime and violence.
God Bless You!