(By Rawlston Pompey)
In human affairs, there comes a time when extreme and dangerous criminal acts dictate desperate measures. It is undeniable that in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), gunmen have rapidly turned communities into ‘Crime Hotspots.’ Most have seen spike in criminal activities and marked increase in gun violence. It is also undeniable that the ‘Gun Culture’ has pervaded many of these societies. Since ‘crime and violence,’ is an inescapable scourge on society, law enforcement shall always be seen as keeping it between ‘tolerability and intolerability.’ The law-abiding and conscious-minded people always knew that whenever it is the latter, their safety and security are in serious jeopardy. Then in seeking to allay fears, public officials often gave assurances of ‘palliatory measures.’
Many people will have seen communities reduced to societal lawlessness, with countable crime scenes of ‘adult males and females; …young men and women –some innocent and some not-so-innocent.’ This article looks specifically at homicides in two ‘OECS-St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Antigua and Barbuda.’ It also looks briefly at the Judiciary and a classic response by Jamaican authorities in its resolve that law-abiding people shall live peacefully and to conduct legitimate business in a safe environment enacted the notorious ‘Gun Court Act’ . Law-abiding citizens in these jurisdictions have demanded measures in curbing; (i) ‘…Gun proliferation; (ii) …Accessibility or acquisition; and (iii) …arresting the brutal and senseless killings.’
These nations have not only seen a marked shift in criminality, but also a ‘Quantum Leap’ toward gun violence. Experience has shown that most homicides have been people targeted or ‘Marked for Death.’ It is more than academic interest to know what manner of persons may commit homicides. Media reports suggested that in ‘9 days, 7 homicides’ have been reported in neighboring St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Thus, the crime statistics have shown increase in violent crimes, ending what has been described as ‘Bloody September’ [Iwitness News: SVG: October 1, 2017]. By day 3 of October 2017, two men have been shot dead, bringing the total number of homicides to 33. It was not clear what may have triggered more violence, but trigger-happy gunmen have left some 9 persons injured [Iwitness News: October 14, 2017]. In ‘Antigua and Barbuda, 16 homicides, (3 in ten days) have been recorded; while in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, 33 murders- 9 in nine days have been recorded. These statistics speak to impunity being displayed by gunmen and an apparent inability by law enforcement to halt the deadly cycle of violence.
When a deal goes wrong and death ensued, the statistical data accounts for a homicide. Thus, when law enforcement speaks to low crime rates or attributed killings to ‘Drug deals gone bad,’ these have never changed the statistics, and brought comfort only to the naïve. Instead, they have brought grief to families and fear in the populace. The categorized property crimes, such as ‘…robbery, ransomed-kidnapping and carjacking,’ are usually associated with moderate to extreme violence. That which are widely known to have brought about injury and/or death are, (i) …Enterprises that beg for legitimacy; (ii) …territorial encroachment; (iii) …gang rivalry or warfare; (iv) …revengeful acts; and (v) …obsessive, passionate or adulterous spouses; and jealous, cheating or jilted lovers (Domestic Violence).’ In these situations, when death occurs, these are all homicides with ‘Criminal Liability’ and grave judicial consequences.
Regionally, while there has been a fascination with guns, there has been no evidence of gravitation to mass killings. It is human knowledge that people with pent-up feelings toward each other or society, have accounted for an extraordinary high rate of homicidal shootings.’ Thus, when armed, the criminal is ‘Most Dangerous.’ While the use of Police force is ‘situationally inevitable,’ it shall never give rise to suggestions of ‘extrajudicial killings’ as reportedly obtained in St. Lucia. An independent investigation concluded that ‘officers operated in an environment of impunity and permissiveness’ [Telegraph: March 11, 2015]. The current state of crime in these two neighboring nations, particularly, gun violence, speaks to an ‘intention to kill- targeted enemies and friends of the enemy.’ Then there are the merciless robbers.
SANCTITY OF LIFE
The notorious ‘Operation Restore Confidence (ORC)’ resulted in cold-blooded killing of some 12 people [Reuters: August 22, 2013]. Occurring with frightening regularity, have been shootings that speak to recklessness and killings that speak to total disregard to the ‘Sanctity of Life.’ The more informed people have become of criminal activities, the more precautions they will take in avoiding places too dangerous for their life, safety and comfort. Notwithstanding, Law enforcement is duty-bound to allay citizen’s fears. They are expected to bring awareness to people who might unknowingly or unwittingly place themselves in positions as to be caught in fatal crossfire. Seemingly misconstrued when Vincentian Senator Julian Francis spoke to the issue of ‘Targeted Killings,’ to all intents and purposes, this may have been the point he sought to elucidate [Iwitness News: October 5, 2017].
Likened to the song ‘These boots are made for walking’ [Nancy Sinatra: 1966], Guns also are made for killing.’ It is well known that gun violence not only has deleterious effects on man and his society, but also has potential for economic disaster. A crime perpetrated against a visitor, is seen as a crime against the economy. Among the nation’s responsibilities are the ‘…protection of its citizens and visitors to its shores; orderliness and a safe and peaceful environment.’ Though violent crimes are not necessarily directed against ‘untargeted people’ or bona fide visitors, regional authorities are extremely concerned over Visitor’s Safety. Failing which, the repercussions have always been (i) …bad publicity; (ii) …travel advisories and (iii) …socio-economic and political impact and (iv) …Governance.’ Local authorities are mindful of these, and influences of the international media, while foreign governments have been keenly following crime trends. Many have been quick to advise their nationals of potential danger. Hence, nations considered ‘Crime Hotspots’ have often paid high economic premiums.
WEAPONS OF CHOICE
Universally, guns have become the ‘Weapons of Choice.” The societal impact has always been death and serious injuries. In the hands of persons, a deliberate or careless squeeze of a trigger often signifies grief or serious injuries. There may be no illusions, with trigger-happy gunmen in mixed-up moods and attitudes they could have people scurrying to safety, while medics and Police react and hearses are dispatched. Speaking to guns within the region, former Barbados Police Commissioner Darwin Dottin, reported an estimated ‘1.6 million guns’ of various calibers’ [South Fla. News: April 7, 2009]. Though origins are often known, sources have been left to speculations and surmising conclusions. That which evidence suggests is that guns are readily accessible and/or easily acquired.
In the many jurisdictions, law enforcement will have seen various calibers of guns. The ‘Most Prized’ weapons have been ‘M-16s and AK 47s rifles, the Uzi Sub-machine guns, Gluck and 9MMs.’ Criminals possessing guns of whatever caliber, imported or improvised have seen themselves as fearless and invincible. Instructively, the deadly use of guns has been said to have accounted for a significant number of homicides in jurisdictional crime statistics. Additionally, there have been many fatalities resulting from gross negligence or children’s curiosity.’ In these instances, there have always been criminal liabilities. Internationally, there have been targeted and random mass killings [Las Vegas; October 1, 2017].
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