The New Today

Commentary

How to recover the horse

The government must not be seen as closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. Instead, it must take bold and decisive action to recover it and place it back in the stable. This is what I wrote in last week’s article.

I went on further to explain that the current crime situation is different from the territorial conflict over a decade and a half between school-aged youths from the Bloods and Ginger Crew.

The layered nature of the situation presents a complexity that is never seen before in this country. Therefore, the interventions to arrest the crime surge must be multi-faceted. It requires the intervention of various stakeholders and a stratified policing response.

The government has to take the lead to facilitate a deep dive into the complex layered crime situation to fully understand the true nature of what the country is facing. A knee-jerk narrow response like the amnesty and draconian firearm legislation that panders to citizens’ basic fears would not work. Instead, it might only worsen the problem.

A serious deep dive or thorough analysis of the current crime situation should allow stakeholders to identify a milieu of multi-faceted interventions to arrest the crime situation and recover the horse back to the stable.

In my last article, I suggested that the government should make changes to the Police High Command to strengthen the executive arm of the Royal Grenada Police Force RGPF. There should be one or two officers at that level with serious operational and tactical experience.

The incidences of criminal activity over the past year and a half laid bare serious deficiencies in intelligence gathering and analysis and crime suppression initiatives.

The creation of a Criminal Intelligence unit to collect information on violence producers, criminals from neighbouring countries who traverse the island, and in some instances become domicile on the island, gangs, and the network of middle men that run the trade in guns on the island would provide the intelligence needed to go after the criminals in a more sustained and coordinated manner.

This intelligence would drive the work of a task force, comprising officers from various departments, that should be set up to provide that much needed crime suppression capacity and step up the operational and tactical posture of the force.

Improvements in intelligence gathering and analysis would allow the RGPF to get a handle on the trade in guns, identify the key players that are sourcing and bringing in the guns on the island not only from the United States and South America but also Haiti. These bigwigs are quietly operating on the island with impunity driving around in expensive BMWs, living the good life with blood on their hands.

In a coordinated effort, the container scanner lying on the port for so long should be put into use as well as the close circuit cameras given to Grenada by the Chinese government which was mentioned in the most recent article.

Cell phone jammers should also be installed at His Majesty Prison to thwart the efforts of criminals to direct criminal enterprises from their prison cells. How can we forget the fatal Egmont shooting last August said to have been orchestrated by an imprisoned Don from neighboring Trinidad and Tobago?

Fast forward to today – word on the ground is that the spate of recent killings are connected to a high risk prisoner directing a criminal enterprise from behind the walls of the prison, aided and abetted by rogue prisoner officers who smuggle in cellphones, money, drugs and other articles to the individual.

This cunning high-risk prisoner with strong links to St. Vincent is said to have a link to the family of a Don from St. Vincent killed on the island last year, who it is alleged could be financing shooters from St. Vincent to join with local counterparts to put down these crimes.

According to chatter on the ground and in the underworld, information was allegedly intercepted by prison authorities and RGPF of a hit list with the names of persons to be killed.

The laying of additional capital murder charges for the death of Shane Brown on one of the persons remanded in the killing of Wangy Cyrus lend some credibility to that theory linking the family of the deceased Don from St. Vincent and the high-risk prisoner to the recent murders.

If the prison and police authorities did intercept such information, why did they not act on it? One may get some answers in last week’s article titled, NNP Still In charge of the Police Force. An intensely partisan RGPF can never be effective.

The person who was slap with the second capital murder charge is a known associate of the high-risk prisoner, while his accomplice, who is jointly charged, is related to that same prisoner.

The information regarding the hit list was allegedly peddled by a few elements in the force well before the murders occurred. Is this another systemic breakdown similar to that of the jailbreak that led to the killing of the American couple?

The Prime Minister must not appear to bury his head in the sand for crime has now become a political risk. Therefore, he must admit his National Security team is weak, the advice given to him is misguided, and there is a need for a serious shake-up of the RGPF High Command.

Mr. Prime Minister, it is laughable when persons are elevated to the High Command and have never ever run a Division in RGPF as a police officer.

The PM must take action to strengthen the executive arm of the force by recruiting persons with operational and tactical experiences who are able to action raw intelligence. One of these persons should have organisational and institutional experience to guide the establishment of new units to enable the force to respond effectively to the changing crime situation.

Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell should make a special request to the United States or China for a large offshore patrol boat to serve as a flagship to the fleet of existing small patrol boats and radar system to replace the now defunct one gifted to Grenada by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to close the holes in our porous maritime border.

Should that not be forthcoming, the Prime Minister should take a page from his counterpart, Dr. Ralph Gonzales playbook and purchase a large patrol boat from Damen Australia to patrol and monitor the island’s maritime borders.

We should consider this instead of celebrating the one billion dollar milestone in CBI revenues of which over sixty percent is given to developers to finance hotels where our citizens toil long hours for low wages, are treated badly and then prevented from using our beaches, reminiscent of an apartheid style system.

Please use some of that money to protect our borders by purchasing a large patrol boat, refurbish police stations, repair pre-primary and primary schools, repair and build health clinics, provide seed money to young people who are desirous of getting into business by way of small business grants, and invest heavily in the rural economy.

After all, the citizens must benefit directly from the sale of their birthright instead of giving most of it to developers and agents, many of whom are a small clique of locals.

The depravity that is observed in the nature of the recent killings is driven by a combination of foreign and local influences. The shooters from neighbouring Trinidad and St. Vincent and other seasoned criminals that traverse through our borders are influencing youths here in Grenada into that depraved behaviour.

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The Trinidad genre of hardcore violence riddled with dancehall music is another main contributor. The milieu of serious social dysfunctions that a growing number of young people have to experience from an early age such as violence and sexual trauma, intense drug use that has led to an increase in juvenile mental health issues, and a worsening overall psychosocial environment that so many of our young people live in are all contributing to that emerging callous depravity.

This requires a multidimensional response, not draconian gun legislation designed to lock up poor youths for a long time that would worsen the situation. Grenada has only one main prison and a small juvenile detention center.

The prison built in the last century and designed to house around one hundred prisoners are now home to well over four hundred prisoners, with four inmates being locked up in a cell originally designed to house one.

Basic facilities are non-existent, with prisoners having to use buckets to defecate in their cells at nights, limited facilities for bathing and washing, and an overall deplorable environment not the least fitting for rehabilitation.

Youths from ‘well to do’ areas like Lance Aux Epines and Fort Judy, who frequent areas like The Ghetto, Saigon, and 4-Roads do have illegal guns as well, however they live in gated communities with high walls and fences around their homes.

The police just don’t run into those areas and search homes, and if they get on the wrong side of the law in many cases just one phone call or a bigwig lawyer would get them off scotch free.

We all know the legal system is not equal, and poor youths from at risk communities would bear the brunt of the draconian gun laws.

To take away the right of a Magistrate to grant bail and Judge’s prerogative in handing down sentences by legislating these unduly long minimum sentences for firearm related offenses is a travesty of Justice.

According to a report from The Sentencing Project in the United States published in the UMKC Law Review 87.1, titled long-term Sentences: Time to Reconsider the Scale of Punishment Nov. 5th 2018. Unduly long prison terms are counterproductive for public safety and contribute to the dynamic of diminishing returns as the prison system expands. In recent years, there has been a growing bipartisan consensus that the policy of mass incarceration is both financially and morally unsustainable.

“Policy initiatives prioritising the use of the criminal justice system as a primary means of fighting crime have produced a host of undesirable ripple effects. The collateral consequences of a felony conviction that greatly impair the life prospects of millions of individuals with a particularly striking negative effect on low income communities of color.” Is this what the government wants to create in Grenada?

Joseph Charney, Deputy District Attorney and law Professor at Loyola Law School wrote, “Justice must be measured, rational and proportionate or it isn’t justice. Any legislation that promotes a punishment scheme not in conformity with this basic principle of fairness is unjust.”

In addition to the draconian legislation proposed by the government being unjust, it will have the unintended negative impact of fostering and spreading depravity within the walls of a dilapidated prison already bursting its seams.

To lock up an eighteen year old school boy found with an illegal firearm, which he may have been given to hold by an elder or accidentally found it in the bushes or in an abandoned building for ten years in a prison as the one in Richmond Hill with already hardened depraved criminals would only cause that young man to become depraved as well.

The increase in the number of young people incarcerated under the draconian gun laws would bring the prison system to the brink of collapse and cause the level of callous depravity to spread among young people as fast a Robinson fire across the island. This would put all citizens at risk as is seen in neighbouring islands.

The gun court in the eighties and nineties failed miserably in Jamaica, and so too did anti-gang and three strikes legislation in Trinidad and Tobago.

The government must not abdicate its responsibility to address the crime situation by prioritising legislation. Instead, it must engage a broad-based group of stakeholders using the multi-factor approach to understand the phenomenon that is crime, in particular the current wave of gun-related crimes.

This would result in the identification of a multifaceted set of solutions that includes strengthening community policing to deepen partnerships and collaboration between the police and communities, early intervention programs for at risk young people before they start to commit crimes, sustained investments in at risk and vulnerable communities like Mont Toute, The Carenage, Belmont, Paraclete, Tivoli and 4-Roads.

Consideration should also be given to the use of a stratified policing strategy using crime analysis problem solving evidence based policing and appropriate structures for accountability, environmental design changes to improve lighting and strengthen surveillance using close circuit cameras and other devices in hot spots, step up monitoring of our maritime borders with the acquisition of larger patrol boats, radars and drones to plug the holes in our porous borders, and provide the RGPF with more resources, manpower, equipment, better accommodation and materials to be able to respond effectively to the situation, building of a modern prison facility to adequately house the number of prisoners incarcerated and be able to undertake effective rehabilitation and reintegration programs for prisoners.

This knee jerk single minded response using the justice system would only create more problems since it would clog up the judiciary and be the catalyst for fostering and spreading depraved behaviour among juveniles and criminals alike thus causing the horse to bolt further and further away from the stable and disappear making it more difficult to be recovered as is the case of our neighbours Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, St. Lucia and St. Vincent.

Moreover, the government could lose sizable support in vulnerable communities if the draconian legislation is seen to be unfairly impacting poor at risk youths while those who have connections and access to bigwig lawyers are getting off scotch free as was the recent case of the United States citizen who was caught with military grade automatic weapons yet all charges were quietly dropped.

The youths in those hot spots know their friends in Lance Aux Epines, and Fort Judy have illegal firearms as well and some of them serve as safe-keepers but their homes are not being raided or cars searched at night.

The gun runners are well known in the underworld, yet they move around with impunity driving their black BMWs and Mercedes untouched and unfazed.

Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell and his national security team should know that is not going unnoticed by those in the marginal communities whom you will need to vote you back into office.

Poor people are not stupid. Independent senators and the opposition should vote against this draconian legislation and request the government to come up with a set of multifaceted solutions that would effectively address the problem and not make it worse.

This would save this peaceful island from the tsunami of depravity that would be breed behind those prison walls that would eventually spill over into the wider society where the type and nature of crime would have no bound as is the case in Trinidad and Tobago.

Special Correspondent