The New Democratic Party (NDP) is deeply concerned about the rapid increase of homicides in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The number of homicides for the year so far is thirty two (32). These senseless killings must stop. If the current trend continues, it will surpass the 2016 record breaking year of forty (40) homicides. It would appear that the government does not have the capacity to manage this crisis.
We call on the Minister of National security, and the Commissioner of Police to address the nation on the worsening crime situation in the country. Of greater concern, is the government’s refusal to acknowledge the depth of this crisis. It is obvious that the Minister of National Security has failed to be ‘tough on crime and the causes of crime’. For the Minister of National Security to suggest that there are opportunities for young people; they see these things on social media and they have obsession for guns is ludicrous.
Where are the opportunities for young people? Where are the jobs? Where are the training programs? Forty six percent of our young people are unemployed (according to the IMF). It was also said on radio, “There aren’t enough skilled persons in St. Vincent.” This suggests that the ‘Education Revolution’ has failed to produce skilled works in the country. There is also an increase in poverty. The poverty report which the Unity Labour Party (ULP) government has failed to release shows that between 2008 and 2018, poverty in St. Vincent and the Grenadines moved from 30.2% to 36.1% of the population. And, the indigence level jumped from 2.9% to 11.3%. We all know the relationship between poverty and crime.
The Minister of National Security is out of touch with the people. He must send the strongest message to the criminals, that they will be caught, prosecuted and appropriately punished. The law-abiding majority needs to believe that they can live their lives free from fear. The police also must give the assurance to the public that they are doing all in their power to keep the nation safe.
Further, a significant percentage of these homicides remain unsolved as the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force seems unequipped to come to grips with this crisis. This incompetence stands in stark contrast to the enthusiasm and vigour exercised in the pursuit and arrest of critics of the ULP administration and in preventing citizens from exercising their constitutional rights to freedom of expression and association.
In twenty one (21) years, the Minister of National Security and successive commissioners of police have failed to present to the nation a credible and comprehensive plan to deal with spiraling crime. It would appear that such a plan has not even been drafted. The time has come for the administration to engage real expertise
The Way Forward
The NDP strongly believes that to effectively combat crime emphasis should be placed on identifying the likely causes of crime, and developing a strategy to remove them. We will commission a review of existing research into the causes of crime to determine which of these causes are applicable here. This will inform the strategies we introduce for combating crime. And, implement the Spiritual Social and Redemption Charter as an important program in crime prevention.
We will vigorously pursue community policing by increasing the visibility of police on the beat, involving police in trust-building activities in communities, and by providing specific training in community policing. Measures will be introduced that will encourage regular meetings with the police and designated communities towards developing ways to reduce criminal behaviour in those communities.
The NDP recognizes the importance of developing and maintaining an effective criminal justice system to convict, incarcerate and more importantly rehabilitate convicted offenders. An effective and well-resourced criminal justice system enhances the chances of securing convictions against those who commit criminal offences. This system involves the police, the Director of Public Prosecutions, lawyers, the courts, magistrates, judges and the penal system.
It is of paramount importance that those persons and institutions mentioned are appropriately equipped to deal with reported crimes, in order to ensure that the guilty are convicted and the innocent are set free. Most importantly is the maintenance of law and order and the preservation of the rights and freedoms of Vincentians. The NDP takes the maintenance of those rights and freedoms very seriously, and will introduce measures that will strengthen the criminal justice system.
This will be effected by: conducting a comprehensive review of the laws of St. Vincent and the Grenadines; introducing measures that will simplify and improve access to justice; increasing the number of magistrates; revising the laws to increase the sentencing options that are available to magistrates and judges; expanding the High Court and improving its facilities; upgrading the forensic lab in order to expedite the prosecution of offences and to reduce the number of cases that are outstanding; reviewing the remuneration and method of promotion of police officers in order to ensure that promotion and remuneration are primarily based on merit, and reviewing the Police Legislation to bring it up to date with the requirements for modern policing.
Moreover, arranging for extensive training of police and prison officers, especially in the field of information technology; establishing a Civilian Police Complaint Commission to receive complaints against police officers from both civilians and fellow police officers; establishing a Young Persons Rehabilitation Centre for non-violent young first-time offenders and for juvenile delinquents; introducing a rigorous rehabilitation program that will be designed to improve the lives of inmates after they have left the prisons and reduce the chances of them becoming repeat offenders; reviewing the remuneration of prison officers and the promotion system to ensure that their career growth is dependent on performance and achievement; identifying communities in which new police stations will be constructed. The NDP is committed in fighting crime
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