Strong law enforcement is not enough to respond to the causes and long-term effects of crime.
And, Minister of Home Affairs, Edmund Hinkson, has called on all stakeholders in the fight to identify the drivers of crime, engage all members of the public in discussions and come up with viable solutions.
He issued this charge as he addressed the preliminary release of the findings of a gun study conducted by the Criminal Justice Research and Planning Unit (CJRPU) at the Savannah Hotel recently.
Noting that research evidence confirmed that Barbados did have a problem with gang violence, Mr. Hinkson said it also showed that the majority of the crimes were committed by youth, against the youth.
“This is extremely worrisome. The availability and access to firearms has fueled the violence associated with gang activity. There is also the element of the ‘block culture’ where gang members lime on blocks for the purpose of engaging in criminal activity,” he said.
He noted that a variety of initiatives were being examined, including the possibility of a gun amnesty and buy-back programme for legal and illegal firearms, in an effort to reduce the number of firearms in the hands of civilians. “This is a strategy that will require the guidance of the Commissioner of Police,” Mr. Hinkson indicated.
However, he also acknowledged that previous gun amnesties did not work or assisted with the reduction of illegal weapons on the streets. The Minister charged that the presence of guns on the streets is a major concern for the present administration.
“Corruption, in my opinion, has been a major problem in this country for a while, but many of us have fooled ourselves until recent pasts that corruption was no big thing. The fact is that corruption is at many, many levels…. People who are corrupt have to be routed out,” he stated, in response to concerns from Acting Superintendent of Police, Graham Husbands, about the effectiveness of gun amnesties.
However, Mr. Hinkson contended that the police would not succeed in their efforts to solve crime without getting to the root of the challenge, unless persons in communities with knowledge of criminal activity disclose that information.
Meanwhile, he noted that draft legislation initiated under the previous administration would be considered going forward, as a last resort.
Director of the CJRPU, Cheryl Willoughby, explained that the Gun Study was started three years ago to look at gun violence occurring in Barbados between 2010 and 2017, and to determine whether there was an increase in gun-related offences and to identify the types of weapons used to commit those offences.
The study also looked at the social and economic cost of crime, and several high-risk communities to examine the social drivers of crime. “If we are to find a solution to the problem of gun violence you need to do so from a scientific perspective. We have to think as strategists and make decisions based on evidence,” she said.