The recent report on crime in the Caribbean by the International Development Bank (IDB) has cast a dark shadow on the region. The report shows that in 2016, the crime rate has soared in a number of Caribbean countries, with its most devastating effects on The Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Jamaica and Suriname. Even though Guyana is seventh on the list, it is still a staunch reminder of the need to reduce crime even further through improved economic well-being of the poor. The findings are rather alarming in that violent crime in the region is higher than in Latin America and is among the highest in the world. The high rate of crime is hurting the region’s tourism industry, which is the most vibrant industry and the biggest earner of foreign exchange for the region.
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The seriousness of crime in the region is gut-wrenching. The report reveals that nearly one in five persons in the above mentioned countries has been affected or at least had lost someone to violence in the region. It states that guns are used about twice as often in robbery and three times as often in assault in the Caribbean as compared with the global average. The average rate of assault and threat is 6.8 percent in the Caribbean, which is higher than in any other region, including Latin America at 4.7 percent, Africa at 5.2 percent and 3.4 percent for the world. Most of the criminals are in 18-to 29-year-old age group who live in poor neighborhoods and are struggling to survive. Almost half of all crimes in the region go unreported to the police.
The Caribbean region is rightfully known for its beauty, warmth, culture, music, and a beckoning environment. However, the darker side of having the world’s highest violent crime rates remains a cause for concern for everyone in the region. One area that is of special concern is violence against women and children, which has increased substantially in the last decade. The report found that violence against women and children is higher than in comparable regions. Everyone, especially women in Guyana, should be worried that one out of three male adults in the region approves of beating or murdering a woman if she is unfaithful, which is a rate higher than in the United States or Latin America.
Many are disturbed by the fact that in the last decade, the number of deportees from Canada and the United States to the Caribbean has increased significantly and that deportees are largely responsible for the increased rates of violent crime in the region. Many have introduced new types of crime and have extended the sophistication of criminality to the local criminals. Several attempts by the leaders of the Caribbean to convince the US and Canada to change their deportation policies have fallen on deaf ears.
In the first six months of 2017, the number of deportees to the Caribbean has surpassed all of last year’s total and in the last decade, more than 75,000 persons have been deported to the region from the USA, the UK and Canada. This is a huge number in terms of the size of the region’s population, however, financial and other constraints of Caribbean states have precluded them from monitoring the criminal deportees who are wreaking havoc in various communities where our security forces are stretched to the limit. Although the crime rate has reduced, it has left many with unforgettable scars and numbness on society.
It is true that we all have a vested interest in fighting crime, but it will not be effectively achieved unless we support the police. Plain and simple, all the modern technology, closed circuit television, more police, and better weapons will be for naught if we do not engage the police. The police alone cannot win the battle on crime. If, as a society, we can find a way to beat poverty and hopelessness, then we will defeat the criminals.