If you google “country homicide statistics” you find a list that shows that arguably the most dangerous country in the world is El Slavador with a rating of 52. The rating is based on the number of crime related deaths per 100,000 head of population. Second in the list is Jamaica with a rating of 49. The statistics are produced by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime so they should be reliable.
In this current table, the Turks & Caicos Islands was in a position of 84 with a rating of 6 in 2014; when only 2 crime related deaths were identified. If we use the figures for the first 8 months of this year, the number would be a heart-breaking 18 crime related deaths, which would mean our rating would be 53 based on our total population. This would officially make us the most dangerous country in the world.
I do not know what needs to happen to shake the government out of its complacency. The increase in homicides from 2 in 2014 to 18, so far, in 2020 is frightening. It is traumatizing for our citizens who are now in fear of their lives, and frightening for an economy based upon tourism. Who wants to live in the most dangerous country in the world ? Who wants to go on holiday in the most dangerous country in the world ?
And how did this happen to a country that prides itself on being a Christian country, a country with a church on every corner ? Why are so many young men turning to crime, turning to guns and finding it so easy to take the life of another?
The Premier’s big announcement of building a bigger prison seems to me to be a tacit acknowledgement of the failure of the much touted 12- point crime plan. The government cannot stop the increase in crime so instead they will build a bigger prison to accommodate those that are convicted. Is this an indication that this PDM government has thrown in the towel on this crime epidemic which had reared its ugly head long before the Covid 19 pandemic.
This begs the question: How effective has The National Security Council (NSC) been besides the barrage of multiple press releases? Furthermore, it is interesting to note that on its establishment in 2015 the NSC announced in a press release that they:
“Received a presentation from the Commissioner of Police on his immediate priorities for enhancing the capability of the RTCIPF including bringing in specialist officers in the field of serious crime investigation.”
Five years on where are the “specialist officers in the field of serious crime” ? Where is the enhanced capability of the RTCIPF ?
In December 2019 I placed a private members motion before the house of Assembly requesting urgent assistance from the UK with specialists in gun crime and gang related violence. The motion was passed, but then ignored by the Premier. It is apparent that the Premier does not have much time for ideas or recommendations that are not hers. I do not know if an urgent intervention in December 2019 would have affected the deaths in 2020, but it could not have made things worse.
There are some who will accuse me of the Politicalization of Crime. I accept and embrace the accusation. It is the government that makes the laws, provides the funding for the police, and sets out the social policies to assist those children at risk and set up rehabilitation and monitoring programs for those recidivist criminals of which there are many.
It is the government that has its hands on the levers of power, the fact that the government does not know which levers to use is a problem with the government, there is little point in blaming the messenger.
So having asked all the questions, what are the answers ?
First we have to recognise that Crime in this country is an epidemic more deadly than Covid -19. So we have to act in the same way as we did for Covid-19 to stop the spread of Crime-20. We need to focus, spend more money on preventative programs and initiatives.
We need to funnel resources to the police with a strategic response plan, and in return we need an independent review of the RTCIPF to look at its policies, procedures and recruitment. I know that the first reaction of many is to defend the police force and its many hard working officers who put themselves in harm’s way to protect and serve the people of this country. So let me state for the record that I have nothing but love and respect for these policemen and women, but such admiration cannot deter us from an in-depth review at the performance of the police force, its structure, its recruitment and its ethos.
Moreover, we also need to provide additional resources to our social services. We need to raise its profile and make sure it is fit for purpose. They need to be able to identify at risk children. If such children are placed outside mainstream culture, offered no hope or continuity, shown no respect by others and unable to develop respect for themselves; there is a greater chance of their going wrong. A greater chance of them joining a gang who perhaps gives them something if they feel society has rejected them. We need to provide the support and resources for these children, because whatever the cost it is cheaper than an $18M prison.
For those who have been locked up the purpose of any system of justice should not just be to punish and deter, but also to rehabilitate, for the good of society as well as the criminal.
The reason for this letter is that it is a call to arms. We cannot ignore this problem anymore, we as people need to demand action from our government and assistance from the UK. We have to address the issue, we have to look it right in the eye and if people do not enjoy the scrutiny, be it the Commissioner of Police, the Premier or the Governor, so be it.
We have to stop pretending that this problem is going away, it is not, it is getting worse so it is time to fix it.
Hon. Josephine Connolly
PNP All Island Candidate