The New Today

Letters

Violence and crime are symptoms of an unstable society

Grenada was not only known as the Isle of Spice – but was regarded as probably one of the most peaceful islands in the Caribbean, except for periods of political agitation.

Up to about the 1960’s-70’s this distinction held good when crime, especially murder was an almost unknown factor in the social menu of the island. Soon after independence however, in 1974, there began a gradual social change where individualism and egocentricity began to take root in the scramble for economic survival in a post-colonial environment.

Within recent times – say from about the beginning of 2022, there appears to be a spike in young male Grenadians taking one another’s life together with chopping and maiming as a means of solving disputes.

The above unfortunate scenario has been described by the opposition NNP party as non-political, but rather a national issue which must involve the entire nation in finding a solution.

There is no doubt that this is a national issue, but the question to be asked is “whether there is anything in Grenada – in the public domain, that does not have political undercurrents”?

In my view, the manifestations of what we are experiencing today – is the result of decades of “social inequality, polarisation and the decline in civic life”. That have left segments of our society, especially the youth in abject poverty, at the bottom of the economic ladder, without meaningful employment, living in depressed physical environment in makeshift plywood shacks without indoor plumbing and running water – after almost 50 years of “political” independence, and worst of all without hope for a better tomorrow – until June 23, 2022.

It may be disputed but the evidence on the ground, especially in rural Grenada together with documentation to support the above cannot be denied; in this regard it may be interesting to contemplate the observations of the experts.

Oscar Newman, a young Professor of Architecture and Urban Planning at Washington University had this to say; “Crime prevention through Environmental Design begins with the insight that a person who is likely to commit a crime in a certain environment would never consider doing so in another”.

Related:  “The origins of our discontents”

And as the American criminologist – C. Jay Jeffery puts it, “There are no criminals, only environmental circumstances which result in criminal behaviour. Given the proper environmental structure, anyone will be a criminal or a noncriminal. It follows then, that crime control measures are unlikely to work if they are designed to target individual offenders. Instead crime is best managed through the manipulation of the environment where crime occurs”.

These (generic) deductions, although pertaining to a large country with millions of citizens – have resonance in our small population – where the poor and neglected standard of our physical environment, have a direct effect on the mood and social relations in our villages and towns – resulting in stress, anxiety and in violent confrontations – leading to loss of lives and serious bodily harm.

As our approach in Grenada is to investigate a crime after its occurrence, having no institution for observance and prevention, it may be useful if the relevant authority consider the findings made by experts above in focusing on upgrading our social (physical) infrastructure – especially in rural and suburban Grenada, which might be the answer to the elimination of the current spate of murders (18 at last count), which might result in a more peaceful and consequently a more productive and prosperous island nation.

P.S: I was just about putting the article to bed, when on the evening T. V News of September 5th, 2023, the Leader of the Opposition Dr. Keith Mitchell gave the government a failing grade for what he described as the NDC’s victimisation of government workers who are dismissed or transferred from their jobs without the involvement of the Public Service Commission. (Words to that effect) – “DO SO DOH LIKE SO”!

Norris Mitchell
Chartered Architect and Urban Planner