The New Today

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The creeping gun violence culture

The Arthur Braveboy and the Beaulieu murders could signal a turning point for us here in Grenada. Are we now at a crossroads or experiencing a surge in underworld killings?

Many older Trinidadians would tell you that the Dole Chadee murders in 1994 and the unsolved brutal killing of a woman around the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain during the same time, were turning points in the evolution of crime in Trinidad and Tobago.

Both murders occurred in the decade of the 1990s, which saw an upward trend in crime fueled by an influx of drugs and guns from South America. However, the feature that stood out with these two fatal incidents was the depraved indifference to human life.

This suggests that a level of callousness had begun to permeate throughout Trinidad and Tobago at the same time as the influx of drugs and guns into the island.

The Arthur Braveboy and the Beaulieu murders could signal a turning point for us here in Grenada because of the similar callous features of these two crimes occurring on the heels of each other.

The first half of this decade saw a dramatic increase in the flow of illegal guns into the country and a rise in the incidence of gun crimes. This has coincided with the changing landscape of the drug trade with younger persons who are connected with underworld figures in neighbouring St. Vincent, Trinidad and Tobago and South America jostling for control of the lucrative activity.

Layered on this is the re-emergence of gangs whose membership are from two generations of cold, soulless youths, many of them have relatives that were criminals themselves and now frustrated over lack of jobs and opportunities, stricken with mental health issues due to various forms of childhood trauma and intense drug use at an early age, and living a precarious existence in vulnerable dysfunctional neighbourhoods.

Coupled with this is a constant degradation of the social order caused by a lack of social cohesion, broken educational system, and music that glorifies violence and sex which goes contrary to social norms.

Society is essentially in a state of social malaise. This is slowly creating a society where a large number of young people, most of them unemployed, are heartless and indifferent to human life.

According to the word on the ground, Arthur’s killing was an act of extreme callousness. Having gone to put peace between two warring sides, he lost his life in a moment of depraved madness by a family member of the victim of an earlier shooting whom he knew very well.

The murder accused, it is alleged by villagers, is fixated with guns and music depicting extreme violence. There are music videos in circulation, allegedly showing someone appearing to be the accused rapping extremely violent lyrics regarding shots to the head.

It is also alleged that volleys of gunshots were heard by villagers who were fearful for their lives the night before in the area.

The second fatal shooting incident is straight out of the gang warfare playbook. A group of individuals or a single individual masks up and rides along towards an opponent with the distinct intention to kill.

This is because if that individual is injured and not killed, he or she would return to eliminate them. There is no regard for the victim’s life or if a bystander is maimed or killed by this dastardly act.

According to one of the mantras of the underworld, it’s kill by any chance necessary or be killed.

There have been heinous crimes committed in the past, such as the beheading of two individuals and the mutilation and burying of an individual. Though these murders can be described as depraved, the circumstances surrounding them are different.

Those two recent murders are intertwined with the re-emergence of gang warfare or territorial conflicts, the drug trade, easy access to guns, and a willingness to use them to settle scores.

The wave of shootings over the last year or so can be described as a precursor to the two fatal shootings in the space of three days. Those incidents represent a ticking time bomb that has now exploded, and there is an expectation that there will be similar killings going forward with the proliferation of guns in the hands of cold, heartless young people.

One legal mind argued recently on a popular program aired on a social media platform that in spite of the recent killings, the island’s murder rate is still low compared to its neighbours.

But so, too, was Trinidad and Tobago in the decade of the 1990s. The murder rate in the twin island Republic in 1990 was 7 per 100,000 or 84 murders. It then jumped to 11 per 100,000 in 1994, or 143 murders by the end of the decade Trinidad recorded 1, 064 murders.

During this period, there were clear signs of a change in the social order brought about by the illicit trades in guns and drugs. In the subsequent decade 2000 to 2009, the murder rate exploded to over 3000 murders; since then it has only spiraled upwards.

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The question is – are we at a similar crossroads as was Trinidad and Tobago in the decade of the 1990s? I firmly believe so because of the changing dynamics in the illicit drug trade, the availability of guns, and the nature of this generation of young people.

We are seeing the groundwork being laid for an explosion of violent crimes, as was the case with Trinidad and Tobago in the 1990s.

Sociologists, social scientists, and pundits alike would in the future look back and say this decade and the murder of Arthur Braveboy and the Beaulieu resident were the symbolic crossing of the redline for crime in the tri-island state of Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique.

Yes, there were a lot of guns left back after the fall of the revolution and a short spike in gun crimes. However, it was mainly robberies such as the nutmeg pool robbery and most of the weapons were sent to St. Vincent and Trinidad in exchange for drugs.

Yes, there was a flood of drugs into the island during the 1990s, a spillover from the emerging illicit trade between Trinidad and its South American neighbours, especially Colombia.

However, crime during this time was mainly fueled by drug addicts called drakes who stole, robbed, and broke into private properties to get money and items they could sell that would enable them to satisfy their drug habits.

There was also some violence between territorial groups and individuals jostling for control of turf and to protect their drugs from being robbed. The cutlass was the main weapon used to commit violent acts. Although a few persons died from chopping, stabbing, and gunfire, there were mainly maiming.

In the decade of 2000, there was an uptake in drug activity with the Spanish, mostly in the south of the island and associated violence, including a few murders such as the unsolved killing of a top player in the then drug trade between Grenada and the Spanish who incidentally is the father of a well-known figure in the current criminal underworld.

However, the underworld landscape has changed with easy access to guns and the inclination of this young generation to use them fueled by a subgenre of dance hall music referred to as Trinidad that glorifies violence in a manner that is different to the past.

The current focus is to look at the crime rate, which is admittedly low. However, this overlooks the changing cultural, social, psychosocial, and economic dynamics that are facilitating the steady breakdown in social norms and the social order of the society. It is in this process that the foundation for a dramatic rise in crime is being laid.

So when Dole Chadee and his gang of eight wiped out four members of the Baboolal family of Piparo in one go and the body of the young lady was found one night with her two breast cut out and her private parts silt from end to end, this was clearly a signal that a level of depravity and callousness had begun to spread throughout the Trinidadian society at which time the crime rate was still low hovering around 8 deaths per 1000 during the decade of the nineties.

In the following decade, the crime rate exploded threefold and has since continued to rise to dramatic levels for each subsequent one.

We must not fool ourselves into thinking that the crime rate in Grenada is relatively low, and these are outlier occurrences. Closer analysis of the two recent murders may suggest that there is a level of depravity and callousness spreading through society.

When Arthur Braveboy, who was in spite of his criminal past, had genuinely expressed a desire to turn a page in his life by unconfirmed reports that he had engaged his girlfriend and in the process of setting up a garage to revive his car rental business, saw the opportunity to further demonstrate that change by seeking to put peace between two warring factions.

Gunned down, unarmed while pleading on his knees for peace to the victim (his friend) of the earlier shooting by his allegedly demented and depraved brother, who it is alleged has a fixation with guns and shooting people in their head.

This is telling, and so too is the Snug Corner murder. This happened just two days after the Bronx incident. Imagine masked men or an individual would ambush and shoot the Beaulieu resident in his head in public.

This is indeed depravity and callousness on a level not seen before in Grenada. The unfortunate situation is that this evil foundation is being laid at a time when the police force lacks competent leadership and a National Security ministry that is hopeless.

Lord help us!

Special Correspondent