Reducing high crimes need a COVID-19 approach on some Caribbean shores

BY R.D. Miller

The balancing act

After the coronavirus (COVID-19) washed onto the Caribbean island and unusual infections increased; followed-up with emotional press conferences and social media by government officials provided crucial awareness, doctors and nurses work tirelessly to combat desperately the lethal disease in challenging conditions.

The social media explosion exposed the tension between political leaders, their local communities, the science, while experts called for more critical resources, protections of staff, and tests to properly understanding the disease impact. There were anxious queries to which businesses should remain open and whose fault for personal shortcomings.

The reality rope:

Sadly, few in the medical fields with dissenting views on carrying out strategies, missing from press briefings and town halls meetings, including several residents with questions. But beneath these fierce debates, deceased bodies are piling up from murders that outnumbered COVID-19 cases and could use a few more open briefings

Crime costs Latin American and the Caribbean countries about three percent of GDP on average, which is over US$ 350 billion in police services, private spending, violent victimization, and the social cost for overseas visitors and capital investments that may sojourn base on studies.

According to police statistics from January 1 – March 2020, 306 people were tragically killed across Jamaica. Between January and February 2020, reports show that Trinidad and Tobago recorded over 73 murders. If this trend continues, it may surpass 2019, 536 brutal murders – the second highest in this country’s history.

COVID-19 in other islands like The Bahamas, Belize, El Salvador, Colombia, Guatemala, Guyana, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Panama, and US Virgin Island, local leaders cannot afford to lose sight of what experts assess as a troubling homicide rate per 100,000.

Under the active radar, Haiti’s CNN report, tension rises February 2020; Armed Forces conflict with the desolate country’s National Police after a violent attack on its headquarters, leaving one wounded soldier dead, two wounded in Port au Prince.

Photo Credit-Globe Post

There are furthermore published reports that millions threatened by hunger in 2020 due to a spiraling economic and political crisis ten years after their terrible disaster could lead to more civil unrest.

In contrast, Bermuda recorded its first murder in two years: five in 2018 and zero (0) murders in 2019. Since March 27, 2020, the ministry of health also has confirmed no cases of COVID-19.

Yes, Bermuda, Barbados, Cayman Island, Curacao, and others have lower rates, less populated, and while some remain under colonial rule and better-managed government. Despite reported illegal drugs and gun trafficking, organized crime, and criminal gangs along the ocean, these islands are managing crime much better.

The attention deficit

Unquestionable, horrific crime is ubiquitous but since COVID-19 emerged, violent criminals have not wavered. They are kidnapping students, killing women, local intellectuals, sports icons, youths, elders, business leaders; and school counselors based on critical reports.

The sensitive handling of COVID- 19 seems like a miss-congeniality personal contest where favorable comments are liked, concerns; or critical questions by the public remain mute on crimes, and their silence is deafening.

Personal accountability now down to a few tweets as vague statements populated the media. It is as if elected officials awful are the most educated people in these underdeveloped countries. Few experienced journalists as it appears merely, possibly from personal or business connections, inner-circle social status, and upsetting political leaders may severely threaten one’s precarious livelihood. Even with political isolation and a terrible fear of these brazen criminals, few conspicuously fail to call out contemporaries..

Seldom are constituency leaders balancing justice and economic prosperity in frantically calling for the total disruption of these criminal gangs in all parishes and outlying counties. Polarized politics merely remain a balancing act between genuine fear, social savviness, and political manipulation. They seek out aggressive targets in pushing back to peddle a feel-good story beneath the decay. And while political elections should be about the next generation, it seems merely personal status and financial gain are more important.

Though it is not total unhappiness on these shores; there is modernization, and revitalization of ports, roads and technology, but habitually seen along party lines of loyalty, that make others feel shut out of the economy. 

However, at what point good-governance kicks in when an election is over?

The parliamentary system of government tends to create stagnation. Opposition leaders who may have just lost an election often become what it could, should, have been; with their social supporters blaming each other for past and current socio-economic, and crime problems.

A tight rope

Wedged in the middle, local law enforcement officers who must consistently wear multiple hats; key mediator, counselor, diversity coordinator, and youth advocate; bandleader; and local volunteers. Their pivotal role is like finding a cure today for COVID-19 as organized criminals are elusive killing anyone in their path.

Fighting crime from Latin America to the Caribbean shores remains a crossroads between an old political policing era to modern community policing. Officers must walk a tight community and political line, while emotional stress, exposure to imminent danger, hostility overworked, and maybe under-paid.

Ordinarily, a pandemic creates a window of coming together in this re balancing of society globally, but violent criminals use this unprecedented time of anxiety, nervousness, anxious uncertainty, and stress to riff mayhem on local communities.

The hidden victims

Unable to leave because of the COVID-19, a 75-year-old grandmother of Ahkeem Lindsay, a 22-year-old, male shot killed on March 26, 2020, talked about her frustration of the ongoing violence, according to the Jamaican Gleaner. Her story echoes elsewhere.

Photo Credit; Jamaica Gleaner

Even cases of domestic violence, quick media clips emerged provided an impression of concerns, but victims are left in that environment without follow-up support.

Agreed, COVID-19 has excellent coverage, but horrendous offenses need more than, “we are tough on crime,” but do they typically know these criminals?

These local criminals consistently display criminogenic risk factors of anti-social behavior and personality. While unemployed with inadequate education, low job skills, substance abusers, mental health issues, apparent lack of moral discipline, and on top of that potential victim of crimes.

Several talked about frustration with their leaders from expectation and hopelessness seeing the same recycled politics. Managing risk requires a multidimensional approach from rehabilitation, vocational and career development.

Numerous incarcerated people struggle after re-entry process with stigma. Additionally, practitioners must expurgate inhumane treatment of offenders; and not one blanket classification on all convicted; both inside and outside of the prison walls.

Studies have shown that modernized institutions and policies to move the offender forward once they return to society have seen low recidivism. The Bordelias Correctional Facility in Saint Lucia is one I’ve visited that has a good modernized system.

Today, guns replaced an individual coming down the hill with a stick after any minor conflict. And with the lack of resources for resolution, any disagreement tends to escalate into serious personal assaults and murder.

Time for a better rope

Island Pride remains an asset, but also a liability when critical data presents a fundamental problem few abates, deflect elsewhere. Communities where violence produced exodus; some defend violent criminals, alleged cover-up or refuse to come forward with valuable information for local law enforcement to be more effective, to call for the release of an accused when the sufficient evidence points to guilt.

Today more high-powered weapons are being shown on social media only seen in war zones, and though few have been seized by authorities; there could be darker days ahead.

Radically reducing crimes does not always lie with incarceration. Recruiting the proper policies, to target-based strategies, to modernize branches of law enforcement is equally important to create a paradigm shift to get to the root causes.

High crime set back any nation and attracting investments to generate employment. While desperate searches continue for the soul of these islands, stick beating like seen in other places like India when citizens refused to stay inside, maybe a nauseating idea, in reducing, COVID-19, on these shores.

But silently many homes have already mentally quarantined from outfitted homes secured with steel bars from becoming helpless victims of crime, where socializing only takes place in pre-selected status groups, up at sunrise and grilled inside by sunset.

Certainly, COVID-19 economical and psychological impact is still being assessed. Experts also noticed that subconsciously, emotional tension can incite domestic violence as individuals are unemployed, layoff, and secured local businesses with little support.

Still looking to land safely

Politics is everywhere, expatriates are gauging these murders, missing students, rape, and robberies that demand a holistic COVID-19 approach for a healthier future or likely return to their roots..

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