Apr 19, 2023 News
– urged to implement more support for male youths
Kaieteur News – CARICOM Secretary-General Dr. Carla Barnett says an action plan which is to be implemented across the region will be compiled at the end of a two-day CARICOM Crime Symposium at the Hyatt Regency in Port-of-Spain, which ended yesterday.
Barnett added that the regional leaders owed this to the citizens of their respective countries, since most CARICOM leaders spend a lot of money to fight crime, limiting their financial contributions to other important national goals in the education, health and social services sectors. “We are in the process of preparing both a declaration and an action plan because it is not only about saying what we need to say, it’s about stating how we’re going to actually get it done. We are organising to ensure we enlist the support, and experts across the region as we proceed forward,” Barnett said on day one of the symposium on Monday.
Earlier, CARICOM chairman Philip Davis, Prime Minister of The Bahamas, in his opening address said the crime problem calls for “all hands on deck.” “An epidemic of violence grips our region, one that claims lives and generates fear and anger,” David said. “In 2022, Jamaica had a staggering homicide rate of 52.9 per 100,000 inhabitants, Trinidad and Tobago had a rate of 39.4 per 100,000, and The Bahamas, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines all recorded homicide rates above 30 per 100,000. This is over five times the global average.”
Acknowledging the battle as a complex one, Davis added, “There’s a tangle of social, economic and environmental factors at the heart of this crisis. During these two days of deliberation, we must find the resolve to untangle these layered issues.” Citing the need for a collective response, Davis added, “Millions of people throughout the region live in crime hotspots, never knowing if they will be a victim on any given day…Violence spreads like a virus, gaining momentum as one violent crime begets another … Violence is contagious, and those who map the commission of violent crimes find that their data mirrors the spread of infectious diseases within a community.”
He added, “Violence can strike in waves and grow exponentially. Those who come in close contact with violence are most likely to spread it and most likely to fall victim to it.” Among issues, Davis said the guns used in approximately 70 percent of violent crimes don’t originate in CARICOM countries. “Every gun used to commit a crime in the Caribbean is smuggled into our countries. In The Bahamas, 98.6 percent of all recovered illegal firearms can be traced directly to the US. In Haiti, 87.7 percent of all recovered firearms can be traced likewise. In Jamaica, it amounts to 67 percent of all recovered firearms and here in T&T it amounts to 52 percent. “We’ve asked the US government and US-based gun manufacturers to cooperate with CARICOM member states when it comes to identifying weapons purchased in the US, as a part of a wider effort to hold weapons dealers and traffickers accountable for the many lives lost to gun violence each year.
“We must call on our neighbours to the north to better police the trafficking of guns from the US to the Caribbean.”
Speaking on an issue which Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley raised recently, Davis added, “Last month, The Bahamas, along with Antigua and Barbuda, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago and Mexico, working along with the Latin American and Caribbean Network for Human Security, jointly filed a brief in the United States Court of Appeal in support of a $10 billion lawsuit to hold US gun manufacturers liable for the destruction American-made guns have caused in our 17 countries. “It was an action initiated by the Mexican government. We intend to challenge the laws that previously protected gun manufacturers from lawsuits. We’re sending a clear message to the world that we are very serious about fighting gun violence in all forms and on all fronts, not just the home front. “The CARICOM Crime and Gun Intelligence Unit was created to strengthen Caribbean and US collaboration in using data and technology to intercept illegal firearms and traffickers. We must fully leverage this partnership, so that those who put guns on our streets are stopped – and brought to justice.”
Davis added, “I’m hopeful the discussions we initiate today (yesterday) will serve as a launching pad for development of impactful interventions and solutions. There are no quick fixes; yet, we must act quickly to save our people from this epidemic.”
Need to support young males
CARICOM chairman Davis also urged regional leaders to implement more support mechanisms for male youths. “I know I don’t have to persuade any of you about the urgency of this work. On a typical day, some estimates suggest that an average of 13 young adults between the ages of 16 to 30 lose their lives to violent crime in our region,” Davis said. “And there must be more outreach to – and support for – our at-risk young men. There’s considerable research suggesting that a young man who makes it to adulthood without committing a crime, is far less likely to become a criminal. Given this trend, it is critical we provide more support for our boys in their transition to manhood to keep them on a productive and peaceful path.”
He added, “Our most at-risk and vulnerable populations require interventions to meet them where they are – in their homes, communities, churches and schools – to make a real, meaningful impact. The recent Carifta Games were an excellent example of what our young people can accomplish when given positive avenues for self-exploration and achievement.”
He cited the work of renowned Bahamian psychiatrist Dr. David Allen, who concluded in his research that an abused child becomes a dangerous adult. “Addressing violent crime requires us to confront these ugly truths about the harm damaged and broken people can carry forward, from generation to generation. But we can’t look away. We need to interrupt these cycles of violence.”
He added, “It is not merely a policing or legislative problem. Nor is it solely the domain of the courts. While better laws and expanded police capacity are important elements of a successful strategy, we need all hands on deck: parents, social workers, educators, rehabilitation specialists, social scientists, community workers and activists, mental health professionals, religious leaders, and many others must come together to address this pervasive issue.”
Citing the impact on investor confidence, Davis said, “If we do not act decisively, our economic prospects will be further eroded by this ongoing wave of violence.” He noted “a powerful example of the strength of a united region” was seen in October 2022, when 19 Caribbean countries participated in a joint operation with Interpol in which 350 weapons, 3,300 rounds of ammunition, 10 tons of cocaine, and two and a half tons of marijuana were intercepted, with 510 arrests. “Such collaborative operations must become more frequent if we want to meaningfully impact the flow of illegal drugs and guns across our borders.” (Trinidad Guardian)
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