“Community Policing” an antidote for crime reduction in St. Kitts-Nevis

Posted by at 26 July, at 16 : 05 PM Print

By Dr. Neals J. Chitan

What went wrong with our lovely Caribbean islands? Places that were known as the safest and most relaxing destinations with the friendliest and most welcoming people in the western hemisphere are now tipping the crime scales and registering ridiculous homicide rates.

I remember as a teenager in the late seventies attending regional youth camps with folks from all across the Caribbean, and participating in “Caribbean Showcase Nights” when we would take to the stage and speak, dramatize or sing about the loveliness, warmth and peculiarity of our individual homeland and people.

These events were meant, in a friendly manner, to showcase and compete for the “Best Island” title, and gave judges a difficult time in deciding, as the beauty, friendliness, hospitality and culture of the islands seem to be equally distributed across the region.

However, today we look back at these friendly comparisons between islands as merely fading memories of how it used to be, as more worrisome and concerning comparisons are made; that of increasing homicide rates among these Caribbean gems.

With St. Lucia finishing the first half of this year 2017 with 32 homicides and St. Kitts-Nevis 17, there needs to be a complete paradigm shift in fighting crime if we hope to see any meaningful and sustainable change in this growing epidemic. You see, criminals are getting bolder and guns are getting bigger. Brazen daytime shootings are now occurring in sporting events and public places like hospitals, revealing the callousness and drive for revenge in those wielding what they see as their “high powered deadly solution” to their hurt.

There has to be a response from police forces, and the response will have to be a drastic stepping up of intelligence, enforcement and/or community relations. With the caliber of weapons now on the streets of the Caribbean, an all military type enforcement approach of once and for all exterminating the criminals can drive such a response into explosive community battles between cops and criminals with disastrous and fatal consequences on both sides of the firing lines.

As a crime reduction specialist assigned to the Ministry of National Security of St. Kitts-Nevis, I must tip my hat to the Permanent Secretary Osmond Petty and Police Commissioner Ian Queeley for their Community Policing initiative, a renewed community relationship building response to crime fighting in the Federation.

To accomplish this response, police officers of integrity with a heart for community building were handpicked. Men and women who were more interested in shooting words of inspiration and hope rather than bullets into the hearts of young people, and guess what? It is working!!

As a crime commentator columnist, rarely do I get the chance to actually participate in that which I am commenting on, but to my credit, I had the opportunity to walk and work with Inspector Rosemarie Isles-Joseph of the Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force and her team comprising of; Sgt. Ricardo Sampson, Sgt. Paula Jacobs, Const. Mark Handley, Sgt. Shorna Edwards, Sgt. Calvin Amory, WPC Nikeisha Thomas, Sgt. Donna Henderson, Const. Lauston Percival and Cpl. Hyacinth Taylor.

These men and women I found to be of good repute, and I highly applaud them for their skills in connecting at a grass root level with the various communities we walked. It was rather exhilarating to hear one street corner youth singing the praises of these uniformed ladies and gentlemen as he pointed to them and said “These are the good ones, I have nothing bad to say about none of them.”

Together we greeted children, youth, adults and seniors in communities across St. Kitts, engaging them in mild to life-changing conversations while assuring them that we all are in this together. The reception was extremely pleasant and welcoming and we spent quality time where necessary to bring hope and inspiration to homes and individuals experiencing challenges, while also taking names of youth who needed jobs so they can be part of a new youth job initiative.

To build relevance and depth to the operation, Department of Probation, another stakeholder agency with its seasoned and well respected Probation Officer Gerald Connor and his colleagues joined the team. Walking along with us, they provided knowledge of the areas and added their voices and presence to this remarkable operation.

As we walked through the streets and laneways I heard people commenting on this proactive friendly brand of Community Policing as an important step towards rebuilding trust and curbing the crime and violence in their communities, and I ponder on the words of Sir Edmond Burke “All that’s necessary for evil to prosper, is for good men to do nothing.”

I therefore salute my team for their dedication and effort in doing something and creating a new brand of Community Policing, thus planting seeds of relationship building and community mentoring which can yield a harvest of trustworthy relationships that will go a far way in reducing crime and violence in St. Kitts-Nevis.

 

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