Saturday, April 20, 2024

EDITORIAL: Advisory a wake-up call

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WHILE IT HAS NOT reached fever pitch, there appears to be a lively debate going on in Barbados on whether the United States Embassy here was acting fairly earlier this week when it warned its citizens about “a surge” in robberies involving firearms and “high levels of violence”.

The reaction in some quarters is that the warning is not merited, particularly when the crime situation in Barbados is compared with that of a number of our neighbours. Indeed, there is some merit in the counter argument that there are many places in the United States were Americans are far more likely to be confronted by armed robbers and other forms of violence than here in Barbados.

However, the stories told by the embassy in its statement are no different from those that form the primary topic of conversations all over this country every day. So while we argue over whether the embassy should have warned American citizens about violence here, every day Barbadians warn each other.

By the same token, we accept that a statement like the one the embassy released this week could do untold damage to the country’s tourism sector. This could in turn affect the economy and lives of thousands of Barbadians, when read by persons outside of the country who don’t have a sense of the overall picture and therefore can’t put it in true context, when making decisions on where to spend their holidays.

However, any honest Barbadian with family living outside of this country would readily admit that it is not unusual to be asked by them “What’s going on in Barbados?” or “What is Barbados coming to?”, more than likely out of concern over the crime situation in “sweet little Bim”.

What this means is that in the final analysis it really does not matter what statistical gymnastics we choose to perform to try to convince ourselves that the Americans were wrong to issue the advisory, we have a problem that needs to be addressed.

Like it or not, there are a growing number of Barbadians who choose not to stop at red lights at night now for fear of being robbed – even if the fear is exaggerated.

Whether or not we accept it, an increasing number of motorists now almost impulsively check to make sure their car doors are locked when they approach junctions or are at a standstill and pedestrians are walking toward them – even innocently.

Accept it as a fact or not, more Barbadians now avoid certain ATMs after regular business hours, out of fear for their safety – and it does not have to be after sundown.

And how many of us are quickly overcome with a sense of fear or apprehension when we see tourists leisurely walking along some streets at night – streets that would not have provoked such thoughts not so long ago?

So whether or not the folks at the United States Embassy were justified in their pronouncement should not be the focus of our attention.

Instead, we should be expending our energy on eliminating the factors that are breeding these violent criminals; ensuring that our law enforcement personnel are equipped with the tools to respond to those who can’t be dissuaded from their wayward paths; and reforming our justice system so that in 2015 we are not trying to figure out where the accused are from 2005 criminal cases that are yet to be heard.

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