HOW do we control gun violence in this country? And are Saint Lucians getting their money’s worth when it comes to the police?
These questions have generated much debate in the country over the years, and never more intensely than now, yet the violence persists. One fact stands out though, and that is gun violence is not just a constant, it is a criminal act which is on the increase, with the death toll from such acts at an incredible high so far this year – 47 at last count.
Almost every weekend there is a fatal shooting. Government say they have tried almost all, if not everything, in their crime fighting book to decrease the frequency of the deadly shootings.
From the launch of National Crime Commissions to the changing of police commissioners – four within a five-year period to date, to equipping the police force with the necessary crime fighting tools, nothing seems to be working.
And, despite the tough talking of each new police commissioner, who, on assuming that post, sends a warning to criminals and would be criminals, the gun violence continues.
We would not be far off the mark in implying that the fear of crime in the country is palpable, Bruceville in Vieux Fort south comes to mind in that regard as does Dennery and Babonneau
It has been argued that what has been lacking in Saint Lucia is a scientific approach to policing and, conversely, it has also been argued, in other circles, that the police force does follow a scientific approach to crime fighting. The police force, at times, produces an analysis of criminal activities in the state over a given year, attempting to counteract complaints that they are unable to deal adequately with gun crimes in the country.
We are not taking sides in the debate over the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the police in fighting crime, gun violence in particular, however we could play the devil’s advocate and point out that effective policing should lead to a decline in crime, especially the crime which is constant. However, this appears not to be the case as we continue to experience gun violence almost on a weekly occurrence, which usually results in a single death or multiple deaths.
Does this mean that when it comes to the police, taxpayers are not getting their money’s worth?
To reiterate, the police force has received more equipment, manpower, even financial support over the past five years than ever before, yet gun violence continues not only to persist, but to increase.
How then is Saint Lucia going to overcome this debilitating problem of gun violence? Is science and methodology going to solve the problem? And how can public confidence in the police force be regained?
No doubt our police force is challenged, more so because of the tendency in Saint Lucia for citizens to over-rely on law and order responses to crime and violence. How then do we get Saint Lucians, and particularly those in authority, to embrace more prevention-oriented approaches to crime?
Could the answer reside in the criminal justice system, which is an essential tool in crime and violence control and in their prevention?
While it is true that there is no silver bullet that will reduce crime, inaction on the part of law enforcement, government and the people will only escalate gun violence.
We believe that the time has come for a radical approach to halting or decreasing the gun violence and crime generally in the country. Such an approach would have to spare no one and would have to include a new standard of transparency and accountability among the foot soldiers of government and government organs as well as the officers and generals of government and the police force.
This new approach should ensure that political and criminal elements do not infiltrate law enforcement agencies, that our justice system is keen on appropriately punishing persons convicted by trial, dishing out justice as required by law, and that our august body called parliament is not penetrated by criminal elements.
We would further suggest that the focus of police work be more directed at gaining intelligence about the gangs and independent criminal operators. This would be assisted by another essential piece of police work – community interaction to gain or regain the confidence of our people. There is much to be done, not just by the police, not just by the government, but by all of us fulfilling our social responsibility.