The following is a recent Barbados Advocate Editorial.
We can very well understand the defensive tone adopted by the Acting Commissioner of Police when confronted with the proposition that two recent murders by guns might cause citizens to feel a sense of physical insecurity. After all, this thesis implicates the precise remit of the organization that he leads –to serve, protect and reassure.
According to a recent report, the Acting Commissioner wants Barbadians “to stop getting carried away every time a murder or shooting occurs”. We make bold to say, on the other hand, “May that day never come”, for whenever it does, we, as a nation, would have by then become inured to murders by gun violence much like in those neighbouring jurisdictions to the north and south of us where the murder rates have notoriously and consistently exceeded one per day for the last three years at least.
It is the contention of the acting police chief that the crime rate is in fact down compared to last year and that “we do not have an upsurge of crime in Barbados”. As comforting as this statistic may be to the administration of the Force, we have observed more than once in this space that it is of little consequence to those who have lost loved ones or property to criminal acts and, moreover, does little to reassure the average citizen that he or she is any safer as he or she goes about their daily existence.
We would have dwelt rather on the nature of the recent offences, that they did not appear to have been at all random shootings but, instead, appeared to have been contract “hits”, where the victims were not unknown to or unrecognizable by their assailants, so that the ordinary pedestrian does not face any increased danger as a consequence.
Acting Commissioner Griffith, in his comments, seemingly fails to appreciate the nature of Barbadian society and its innate aversion to crimes of violence, especially gun violence. His assertion therefore that that he does not understand “why as soon as someone gets shot people start running around saying there is an upsurge in crime, because that is not true” exemplifies this shortcoming.
Statistically, the Acting Commissioner is right. One or two shootings cannot equate to a general upsurge in crime. However, with the greatest respect, we would argue that the direction of the statistics is not the critical issue here. For us, it is, rather, the general feeling of security of the citizen, in an environment where marksmanship does not appear to be one of the hallmarks of the Barbadian gunman, and where, horror of horrors, we recently had the death of an innocent passenger in a vehicle caused by an errant bullet fired in other criminal circumstances.
It may be that the downward slide of the local crime rate does serve to establish the diligence and industry of the local force in the pursuit of its civic obligation and this is to be commended.
Nevertheless, comparison with neighbouring jurisdictions, even those with smaller populations, are indeed odious and do little to inspire a feeling of physical security of the Barbadian man and woman in the street. This feeling is mostly premised on the degree of unlikelihood that an individual may be confronted with a loaded gun in his or her comings and goings.
After the reckless misconduct that might have caused the untimely recent death of the lady travelling in the vehicle, we are persuaded that it is not at all about the crime rate, but rather about the number of unlicensed guns in the country.
That is one statistic we should wish were lower.