The New Today

Letters

Crime in CARICOM infects and affects ALL of the region

Dear Grenadians, Carriacouians & Petite Martiniquians:

The recent tragedy that casts a shadow over our beautiful Grenada weighs heavily on all our hearts in the Grenadian Diaspora in New York.

First, we extend our deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of the American tourists now presumed dead and lost in this senseless act of brutal violence.

While events like this are thankfully rare in our beloved homeland, they do force us to confront the undeniable reality of crime within Grenada and the wider CARICOM region – an issue that demands our focused attention and collective resolve.

It’s important to note that the Caribbean is not a monolith. The islands of the archipelago vary greatly in the types and severity of crime they face. However, we do share some common threads that contribute to these challenges.

Firstly, let me address the legacy of socio-economic inequality. Decades of uneven development have created deep pockets of poverty and marginalisation that is fertile ground for crime.

For example, young people without opportunity or hope, in desperation and with no other options, too often see illicit activities as the only path and way forward to economic survival.

These social ills make Caribbean islands vulnerable to further destabilisation through the influence of opportunistic organised criminal gangs engaged in the narcotics and illegal gun trades, and other forms of unlawful for-profit activities.

Secondly, without a doubt, the easy intra-island flow of illegal weapons fuels violent crime; it is the expected intended consequence. Porous borders (land surrounded by water) and the global reach of arms trafficking make it simple for dangerous firearms to enter island communities.

These weapons fall into the hands of criminals, transforming every minor dispute into a potentially lethal encounter that local police forces and law enforcement agencies are ill-equipped to handle.

But let me be abundantly clear: while acknowledging these realities, I do not seek to excuse or trivialise the crimes that plague Grenada and the region. Every act of violence is a tragedy, a life cut short or irrevocably altered, families torn apart. We owe it to ourselves and our future to act decisively. But we simply cannot “arrest or police” our way out of violent crime.

So, what must be done? Here are some examples of policing in New York City that has seen its fair share of violence and today, at the time of writing, is one of the safest big cities in the United States with a population of over 8.25 million people.

First, Targeted Policing and Community Collaboration: Law enforcement must adopt intelligence-driven strategies. Police need to be out in the communities, building trust, and partnering with residents, businesses, faith and community-based organisations (CBOs) to proactively prevent crime.

Citizens must feel empowered to report suspicious activity and cooperate with investigations, knowing their concerns will be taken seriously. This is the protocol of Community Policing that has positively impacted crime reduction in New York City.

Holistic Youth Development and Support: Young people must have clear pathways out of poverty and hopelessness. This means government and businesses investing heavily in education, job training, and mentorship programs that create legitimate opportunities.

Sports, culture, and accessible social programs offer routes for engagement and personal growth, turning potential perpetrators into productive contributors.

In New York City, police precincts (stations) all have special youth programs that include the Police Athletic League (PAL) and a myriad of sports (basketball, football etc.) that target young people in neighbourhoods that are affected by crime.

Precinct Councils, made up of police and community residents, collaborate and assist local cops to better police their communities and help solve crimes.

National Police Night Out brings police and community together for a day of fun, food and friendship that helps to solidify community-police relationships.

Deterrence and Rehabilitation: Strong law enforcement must be matched by a fair and effective justice system. Criminals must face swift consequences as a deterrent. At the same time, we cannot give up on rehabilitation, particularly for younger offenders.

Prison should be a place to break the cycle of crime, providing education and skills-building to pave the way for reintegration. In Brooklyn, the District Attorney’s “Alternative to Prison” for first offenders, and his recidivist programs help to arrest and reintegrate those who have paid their debt to society – back into the society.

The alternative to prison program gives juvenile, first offenders of non-felony crimes a second chance based on a number of must-do civic and educational programs as opposed to prison/jail time.

Tackling the Illicit Gun Trade: This requires international cooperation, especially with the United States. Here CARICOM as a regional political collective MUST speak with one voice and press the Joe Biden Administration to do more to stem the flow of weapons to the Caribbean.

The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) that is responsible for enforcing Federal criminal laws and regulating the firearms and explosives industries can help. They have the resources, experience and expertise to assist CARICOM nations in this activity.

Simultaneously, CARICOM need to bolster border security and intelligence efforts to intercept these weapons before they wreak havoc on the streets.

Regional Cooperation: Today, crime transcends national boundaries in the Caribbean. While there is sharing of information, intelligence and joint operations between island nations, these processes need to be strengthened and deepened.

A more sustained, organised and modern coordinated regional approach to cripple transnational criminal networks and break the back of the illegal drug trade that destabilies our societies is necessary. This system must be built on modern technology that includes surveillance systems, human and machine intelligence as well information in the public domain.

Finally, if I was speaking to the Grenada government and law enforcement community, I would say this: reach out and find ways and means to work with the New York Police Department (NYPD) – one of the world’s best police forces.

This force of over 38,000 officers have tremendous resources and international collaboration programs that small island nations can tap into and take advantage of. All that is needed is the political will to do so. Grenadians in the Diaspora can help in this regard.

As a concerned Grenadian in the diaspora, I know that this fight will not be easy or swift. And having worked in both New York City and State governments, I know from experience that it will require sustained investment, unwavering political will, and the steadfast commitment of every citizen.

The tendency to score cheap political points, to obscenely capitalise on tragedies, and point accusative fingers and single our political enemies as part of the “bad guys” is infantile, asinine and counter-productive. If we are genuine, the right approach – while our anger and emotions understandably run high – would be to channel this energy into seeking solutions to this pervasive problem.

In my humble opinion, crime is neither an NDC nor NNP thing. And yes, the buck stops with Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell. He has to deal with this. But as Grenadians we all can put aside our politics and prioritise safety and security, investing in our people, and protecting our communities.

This is the Grenadian thing to do. Instead of finger-pointing lend a hand to our young Prime Minister. He is NOT the enemy. Let us help him handle a very, very difficult and infinitely complex situation that, I submit, has no easy answers and can tax the most experienced of political leaders.

So, I’ll close by urging all Grenadians of goodwill to look out for each other, report crimes, demand accountability, and believe in a better, safer future for the Grenadian and Caribbean family.

Together, let our shared grief ignite not despair, but a fiery resolve to reclaim our country in the name of peace, justice, and the boundless potential of the Grenadian and Caribbean people.

Fifty years of independence and our journey to maturity gives me hope for the future.

Sincerely,
Michael Derek Roberts
Editor, Caribbean Times News (www.caribbeantimes.com)
Chair, the Public Relations Committee, NDC New York Chapter (www.ndcnewyorkchapter.com)
President/CEO, CommonSense Strategies Group, Llc (www.comstratdm.com)