By Derrick Miller
A unique marriage: Despite recent headlines of brutal killings, robberies and domestic disturbances, some reports have shown crime is on the decline, especially in the dominant Caribbean islands. Sure, the murder rates per capita numbers is not a record one should be proud of like Usain Bolt’s track and field accomplishments.
Today there are so many questions and few answers to build a better and solid community alliance to fight crime, promote safety, and increase the standard of living. These communities face challenges that require ongoing partnerships and citizenry that begin with you too.
Government cannot do it alone; they need your local eyes beyond vigilante justice, or an increase in the rewards being offered to solve crimes. From the emergency response team, to the food stand vendor, doctors, pastors, school guards, substance abuse counselors, nurses, and teachers, etc., they must engage more.
Fragile communities need a simple approach built on mutual understanding beyond party lines that benefits the entire community. Only when legi
timate collaboration forces tough questions and a demand for tangible results then these ongoing issues will dissipate. It is beyond “me only mentality,” in order to create new quality, and integrity between the powerful and the vulnerable.
The only alliance often formed is between local grocery stores, churches, butcher shops, vegetable markets, Western Union, and bars. Few would admit publicly due to an epidemic of selective amnesia, which the diversity in the Caribbean equates to a dynamic community that benefits all. Today, that basic homogenous formula is being threatened due to lower local productivity stemming from massive imports.
No, I am not writing about the Chinese impact, since most of those leaders’ agreements are still on honeymoon. We’ll see when it is over.
We can have a debate on this, and compare to other nations.
Few symptoms: Beyond the leaders two-minute photo-ops, tuning into a local talk radio station, or get out of the pre-package gated areas captures the true feeling of the community.
The airwaves are both refreshing and depressing regarding crime, politics, and socio-economic issues. Parts of these one-sided debates on incompetence, despite legitimate concerns, can create more community divide when it is used for one’s own political advantage.
However, when the camera lights are off, several families still search for answers. A son/daughter never made it home from school, domestic disturbance continues, or an officer’s death whether friendly fire or by criminal remains unsolved, and now archived inside cold files.
These questions further the debate on who really needs to be investigated, as the community struggles to differentiate some officials’ actions from the criminals. Nevertheless, this is not an opportunity to disengage, even when efforts are being made to seek justice.
The inability to solve crimes overshadows that the majority of these public servants are good people. It is tough being an officer. They take on tasks most of us would not even fathom.
Community marriage requires ongoing new mechanism platforms built on mutual accountability and not depending on one side to mitigate social disorder and crime against humanity. “They haven’t done anything good,” one caller noted, inspite of the frustrations that beamed through the airwaves.
What have some of these callers done to change course?
Problem solving does not have to end up inside a court or in a family plot.
When a victim looks elsewhere than inwards for services from government and community agencies, it erodes collaboration. Even some leaders who have risen from these same communities and hold critical positions seem disconnected.
Many lack critical skills to build a 21st century problem-solving triangular approach to address crime and social disorder. This is a proven model in community policing for public safety.
“Ignoring the voices, especially young people, from important policy decisions is at their peril,” a recent United Nations report warned governments.
Minimizing the community divorce: Politicians have to cut internal scuffles, take responsibility and fund more community policing operations to build a solid web such as addressing mental illness, substance abuse even for earlier public servants, easy access to weapons and cut barbaric ideology that will kill simply because one wears a uniform.
When did it become cool to shoot police officers? It has become too routine, regardless of location, and that has to stop.
Calling for more engagements one should not be seen as “Snitch”.
Community accountability is not turning away due to one’s own frustration, as another person will become a victim before this opinion is completed. Crime and criminogenic risks often thrive off poverty. Your engagement is paramount, as it could decide where a victim or a vocational development centre is built to make the community less reactive.
On October 27, 2015, I watched the draped coffin of officer Randolph Holder in Jamaica, Queens, NY. Holder’s body was flown to his native Guyana for burial.
His story is not unique to the community he served. It stretches across many coastlines where umbilical cords are still buried from heritage. Beyond that badge, an uncle, a brother, dad, friend, son, and the list goes on.
Three decades ago my legs were much shorter to get a full view of a lifeless police officer body laid still in a small church. Many of the youths from the community tried to understand why a young officer was gone. The crowd reminded us of a positive impact he had on the community.
Today, several of my public servants friends benefited from his positive influence. The community looked like an after winter storm where trees stood still covered with ice. However, they never stop demanding an answer and continue to engage positively.
“He did not die in the line of duty” and his case remains unsolved. It seemed like just another accident as many others.
Today, society has modernized and one hopes that those policies are updated and are not just a one-time life insurance check hoping that it will bring comfort. A public servant is always on duty even when the shift ends to those who are retired, migrated, and now online. Such as muscle memory to mitigate violence, people will engage based on trust and leadership.
The counseling sessions: Today it seems more difficult to connect and create a vision where realistic thoughts and conscience have struggled to see long-term. No one is under any illusions that everyone will show up. It is a hard sell, especially where communities are economically struggling, generational gaps, haves vs have-nots and relationships are short lived like an election cycle, coupled with unresolved crimes and systematic corruptions.
Educating these communities, from emergency planning, substance abuse, delinquent behaviours, laws and law enforcement career is key so, when an unmarked topless police jeep roams the street with armed officers looking for one person that the community refused to turn over, many others will not be killed.
A simple concept of a thriving police youth club 30 years ago that allowed our late 6ft tall brother Earl to become a community soccer referee for one day. Finally, a troubled kid knew his name and cemented a positive perception. Those critical exposures and institution appeared diminished to be replaced with who is the scariest officer to go in with weapon blazing.
These streets now are occupied with armed young men at cash pots seeking wealth one never accumulates to fill a gap of hopelessness. Others who are on the right path struggle to cope in communities runs by criminals. Yet, many continue to look away in fear for their own safety.
Is it time for these communities to have a vote on who should head their public safety team by passing ranking files.
There remains a grip on bureaucracy, but community policing is beyond the Commissioner’s office, and ranks who are developing an analysis of crimes, and providing essential direction for these fragile communities. Knowing a local high school coach’s name is an important as electronic intelligence gathering that is an architect of solving crime. One bad encounter with an officer decades ago, few still see all new recruits as one. Isolation only further cements negative belief even as one’s own son could use the critical social development that can be offered at a police youth club.
Let us recommit: More gated communities being promoted and sold is not immunity from crime or policing. One should demand accountability and without fear of retaliation. A person, especially the youths, needs a ride-a-long not only in handcuffs. These communities have to step back and decide what type of muscle memory it wants to build going forward. More active neighbourhood watch programmes combined with questions to the local representatives is critical.
Doing nothing means nothing. Cognitively engaging can reduce files you would like to see, promote peace, and cut violence.
From the New Year’s fireworks in Curacao, Christmas Grand Market in Jamaica, to pre-carnival celebration in Trinidad, community engagements that seize on the opportunity them vs. us only promote ignorance.
Finally, yet importantly, it is time to light up your driveways again, beaches, local shops that are often forced to close early from fear, and you might just make a difference and meet a new friend.