Last week, specifically April 17-18, 2023, The Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago hosted a Regional Symposium on crime under the theme, 'Violence as a Public Health Issue- The Crime Challenge'. This was a landmark meeting, that at least for me, seemed to subtlety acknowledge that crime is no longer a matter of 'police and thief', but rather appears to be taking all of us from a wider dimension- including our general health.
Among the noted attendees at this event, were several Caricom Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government, the current CARICOM Secretary-General, members of the respective local and regional protective services, the Judiciary, the business community, the diplomatic corps and other key stakeholders. Some very important points were made. Likewise, some controversial statements were uttered, and thankfully, some common trajectories for making the region safer and more secure were formalized by way of an official communique signed by the regional leaders-cum-representatives. Nevertheless, after all is said and done, it still begs the question, do you feel safe where you are at present?
Let's face it. Crime affects us all, regardless of age, gender, religion, ethnicity, nationality, socio-economic status, et cetera. We have all been subject to an experience with this extraordinary beast- whether directly as victims, or indirectly as witnesses to crime, or conversely, where we know at least one other person who has been affected by crime.
In terms of the effect of crime on enterprises, I daresay that crime is the ultimate antithesis of business development. It cannot be denied that legitimate enterprises of any description will often launch, develop and thrive in an environment that equates with physical safety, security and stability. Therefore, business owners, operators and managers generally tend to lean toward spaces where rampant crime does not occur, as any threat to safety would not only present a strong obstacle to the livelihood of these businesspeople, but also the lives of their employees/juniors and indeed, their customers.
To this end, it can be reasonably argued that there remains a growing threat to the development of the Caribbean region as a sphere of influence in trade, investment, finance, culture and tourism, due to the proliferation of illegal weapons, more so [illegal] assault weapons, the exponential growth of the illicit drug trade- which incidentally, has been fuelled by gang violence and human trafficking even when one is not involved in any of these degenerative activities, since innocent bystanders can be inadvertently caught up in the actions of criminals.
Yet, these violent incidents do not exist in isolation to each other. I believe that they are all interconnected, and sometimes overlap. A common thread throughout the occurrence of these phenomena, is corruption. Specifically, where corrupt officials in the public or private sector engage in fraud, bribery, blackmailing, collusion with the criminal element or otherwise turn a blind eye to illegal acts taking place under their watch.
Likewise, is the current mindset of law-abiding stakeholders existing in silos. Yes, we are desirous of fighting crime, yet in the same breath, it seems that we are too often unwilling to engage in meaningful collaborations with each other, not realizing that there is strength in numbers, particularly when attempting to tackle a multi-headed Hydra as prolific and wide-reaching as crime. We cannot realistically continue to maintain this status quo and expect a different result.
Yes, we are expanding our scope of stakeholders to include an increasing number of organizations and individuals. Nevertheless, are we simultaneously broadening our scope of stakeholders to include for example, those most at-risk of being perpetrators of crime, those who are the so-called 'blue-collar' men and women in addition to the lettered experts, as well as those who have experienced crime, whether as reformed ex-offenders, the incarcerated offenders actively engaged in self-reformation, not to mention the healed or healing survivors?
Finally, it is my respectful view that we should not only view crime through the lens of violence crime. Though it might be difficult for [some of] us to readily admit, crime is crime, whether it is 'big crime' or 'small crime'. Indeed, while we would readily condemn the murderers, rapists, robbers, drug dealers and violent gangsters for their nefarious acts of domestic terrorism [and rightfully so], are we willing to do the same for ourselves, if or when we deliberately or subconsciously do 'something small' that might bring our respectability, integrity, patriotism or authenticity into question? Think about it.
Crime is a current challenge, but it is not for an eternity. We might struggle with the battle, but we will eventually win the war.
LinkedIn Local Caribbean, crime, symposium, safety collaboration