The New Democratic Party (NDP) has been consistent in highlighting the failure of the Unity Labour Party (ULP) administration in fighting crime. We also have been offering solutions to the government as to how to combat crime. In 2018, we walked from Fitz Hughes to Kingstown and from Rabacca Dry River to Kingstown to bring awareness to the worsening crime situation. And, President of the NDP, Honourable Dr. Godwin Friday, addressed the nation in December 2022 about the crime situation in the country.
Studies by sociologists have shown that unemployment and lack of financial resources escalate crime. Yet, our Prime Minister who appears to be an expert on the causes of crime does not believe what these sociologists have confirmed. While we welcome the initiative by regional leaders to discuss the issue of crime at the symposium in Trinidad, some of the statements that were uttered by Prime Minister Gonsalves at the symposium were disturbing.
Meanwhile, the number of homicides continues to increase in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The following is a statement that was issued by the NDP on the recent shootings in the country: “Vincentians are alarmed at the spate of violent crimes in recent times, most of which are gun related. On Tuesday 11th April 2023, Jomo ‘Top Dog’ Brudy died after being shot in Pole Yard on the previous day. Brudy’s death brought the homicide count in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) to 11 for the year. On Friday night 14th April 2023, Queen’s Drive businessman, Michael Richards, died in a hail of bullets raising the homicide count to 12.
Crime is out of hand in SVG. In 2022, the record-breaking count of forty-two (42) homicides left the government unfazed, unapologetic and lost as to an adequate response.
Clearly, we are careening in the wrong direction. In all of this, Vincentians await some solace of even the perception that the Prime Minister and Minister of National Security, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, and the Commissioner of Police, Colin John, are even aware of the extent to the problem confronting the Vincentian people. When will we hear of a plan to fight crime from those in authority?
The refusal by the ULP Administration to acknowledge the depth of this crisis shows that they are overcome by it and lack solutions. Once again, the Minister of National Security has failed in his promise to be, “tough on crime and the causes of crime”.
The New Democratic Party (NDP) extends sincere condolences to the families directly affected by violent crimes in SVG. We understand your pain.
Crime in SVG is a crisis that affects everyone and will require a national collaboration to address it. The NDP is again renewing our call for the ULP administration to work with us and other social partners in the development and implementation of strategies to address the crime epidemic.
President of the NDP and Leader of the Opposition, the Honorable Dr. Godwin Friday, has made it clear that he is ready to work in the nation’s best interest. Anyone with information that might assist the police investigations should contact the police immediately.”
There is a better and more hopeful alternative
There is a better way to combat crime. It does not have to be that way. As a country of God-fearing people, we are better than that and we do not have to accept living that way. But government must act to make it better. However, the present government does not have the will, the moral authority, nor the competence to tackle the problem. They lack ideas and, therefore, lack solutions. There is a better, more hopeful alternative, which will improve life for our people and make St. Vincent and the Grenadines a beacon of good governance. We have called for effective means to fight crime, not merely with words but with a clear plan to action, which we will implement as soon as we replace this failed government.
To be effective, we must understand what gives rise to crime, then develop strategies and programs to address the problem. We must focus on crime prevention. Remember, an ounce of prevention is still better than a pound of cure. We should therefore invest heavily upfront, on crime prevention. In this regard, the programmes outlined in the NDP’s Spiritual and Social Redemption Charter should be implemented. The Charter promotes positive community-oriented programs that would steer vulnerable young people away from crime towards socially positive behaviour.
We must restore trust and confidence in the police and the criminal justice system. Trust in the system now is shaken and broken. Political connections should not shield anyone involved in a shooting, theft, domestic violence or other crimes from proper investigation and prosecution. Justice must be equal for all. This will help everyone and will help the police in their work and their lives. They and their families are members of society and like the rest of us are equally vulnerable to crime and violence.
Further, the police cannot solve crimes by themselves.
They need the community to provide information during investigations and to be witnesses in criminal cases. We can promote this by implementing and pursuing community policing. With specific training in community policing, the police would engage in trust-building activities in communities. For example, regular meetings between the police and community members should be introduced so that they would work together to prevent and solve crimes.
The police must see their mission as serving and protecting people and be keen to embrace the community in so doing. We must also increase the presence and visibility of police in our streets and communities, not in a hostile manner but to assure people that they are there to protect them. We reiterate our willingness to cooperate with government, civil society organizations and other social partners in pursuing a national response to the problem of crime.