Even though there has been a spike in gun-related murders in Barbados for the past three years, the murder rate remains relatively low when compared to other countries in the Caribbean and Latin America.
This was among the key homicide trends released in a study entitled: An Examination of Gun-Related Homicides in Barbados for the Period 2018-2021 Phase 1, by Government’s Criminal Justice Research and Planning Unit (CJRPU).
The findings released, during a virtual session, by Senior Statistician, Tameshia Howell, disclosed that some of the gun violence exhibited in communities across Barbados was linked to a rise in gang activity and the easy availability of fire arms.
She stated: “Some overall trends noted were while homicides have risen significantly in the last two years – 2019 to 2020, the homicide rate in Barbados has remained low, when compared to other countries in the region. Homicides in Barbados continue to fluctuate throughout the years, with a general range of between 20 and 30 [murders]. However, for the last two years, homicides have spiked out of the range into the 40s.”
Ms. Howell continued: “For the last three years, there was an overall homicide increase of 46 per cent, with the last two years recording a 71 per cent increase between 2018 and 2019, followed by a 15 per cent decrease between 2019 and 2020.”
In explaining some of the risk factors, the Senior Statistician articulated the view that data on increased gun-related killings, over the last three years, showed that fire arms were the weapon of choice for perpetrators in the commission of the crime.
She gave participants a snapshot into the gender and age of perpetrators and the weapon used globally. “Young males between 20 and 29 are more likely to be victims and perpetrators of gun-related homicides. Gun-related homicides tend to have a low-clearance rate, 45 per cent, compared to other homicide weapons and methods. This is suggesting that the weapon used in a homicide can affect…that homicide being solved. Gun-related homicides often leave little to no evidence compared to stabbings, or beatings, which would require close contact.”
Additionally, Ms. Howell said the study showed that between 2018 and 2020, nine per cent of the killings were females, while murders committed between the 20 and 29 age group stood at 48 per cent.
“While males have always been higher at risk of becoming homicide victims, the gender gap has certainly widened. There has been a continued increase of male homicide victims while the numbers among the females have declined. An analysis of the age profile revealed that…24 was the most observed age among the victims, the oldest victim was 83, and the youngest was 16 years old.”
Acknowledging that most perpetrators had been previously arrested for other offences, ranging from property damage to drugs, the Senior Statistician suggested a number of interventions aimed at curbing gun crimes.
Ms. Howell identified the adoption of a public health intervention approach to reduce urban violence known as the CURE Violence programme, first introduced in Chicago, United States of America. It was later adapted in Trinidad and Tobago, between 2015 and 2017, under the heading Resolve, Enmity, Articulate, Solutions, Organise Neighbourhoods programme.
Other recommendations included a Peacemaker Mentorship Programme, establishment of an Anti-Gun Violence Task Force, and the Establishment of a Gun Court. The findings were released during the department’s month of activities, and the study sought to provide a scientific understanding of what was happening in communities regarding gun-related deaths. It also builds on previous research conducted by the CJRPU.