Barbados and the region need to move towards evidence-based decision making so policymakers can be properly informed before they make decisions.
Director of the Criminal Justice Research and Planning Unit (CJRPU), Cheryl Willoughby, emphasised this point as she delivered the welcome address during the release of an Updated Homicide Study for Barbados at Almond Bay recently.
???No longer can we anecdotally determine that we need a particular policy or legislation in order to address any problem that we are seeing, whether it is crime, whether it is health; whatever the situation, we need evidence, and we can only get that through rigorous research conducted on a regular and sustained basis,??? she stated.
She added that the Barbados Crime Observatory, established in 2012 with the assistance of the Organization of American States, would allow the CJRPU to work alongside other agencies in preparing UN Crime Statistics Reports to give a clearer idea of whether crime is increasing or decreasing in Barbados.
The Director explained that the project would bring a standardised way of reporting to allow for proper trend analysis to determine the way forward.
???The Barbados Crime Observatory is in its infancy stage right now, [but overtime] we would be able to do a lot more in terms of criminological research. Right now it is limited because we have to rely on the data coming from police in order for us to conduct our research,??? she pointed out.
Mrs. Willoughby explained that police statistics were not always ideal because not all crimes were reported, resulting in a lack of definitive numbers on the true crime situation.
It was on that basis that the CJRPU Director made a case for a database to input all data, along with yearly victimisation and self-report surveys, so better decisions on crime could be made by policymakers.
???Official crime statistics are not always a true reflection of crimes occurring within any location. So hopefully we would be able to do a lot more with our Crime Observatory.
???We are hoping that we would be able to work with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education so that all the data they are storing in different locations can be housed in one area, so that persons doing academic research, persons who are looking to make a link between crime and alcohol or drug use, will be able to come to one place and have that data readily available,??? she explained.
To set those wheels in motion, Mrs. Willoughby stated that the Unit would be seeking to convene a meeting early next year with stakeholders to present their case regarding data collection.