The Rising Violence: Let's Take Action - Now!
There is a growing sense of helplessness among Antiguans as we hear and read about the increasing acts of violence - particularly gun violence - that seems to be spinning out of control.
There might have been a time when some people felt that they were safe from the robberies and hold ups that were once the primary acts of violence. Now, everyone realizes that he or she is at risk. We realize that our children are at risk. And we realize that our elderly are at risk.
This is serious.
What is even more serious... and frightening, is the apparent inability of our law enforcement to catch the perpetrators of these violent acts. I am not even talking about preventing the violence... I am referencing 'catching the criminals'. The fact that our law enforcement... who has been agitating for higher salaries... can't catch these criminals means that we are all at risk for the criminals to continue their rampage of violence, thefts, break-ins and other acts of lawlessness.
As an aside... or maybe this is central to the whole issue... is the fact that our law enforcement officers don't seem to understand that there is a correlation between performance, productivity, results... ---- and pay raise!
The Government needs to take immediate and strong action. Now. There is no bigger crisis existing in our nation today than the threat that the violence poses to all of us. It threatens our economy. It threatens our daily lives. It threatens us while we sleep. It threatens our feelings of being safe. It threatens us as we go to work. It threatens us as we go home from work. It threatens us on the bus and in our cars. It threatens us in our homes... our supposedly safe havens. It threatens our children at school and at play.
The Government needs to demand action from the police... and if we don't get results - we need to replace the police leadership with highly trained, highly skilled, results oriented, proven law enforcement leaders from where-ever we can get them. Now for me that is a stretch - since I am adamantly opposed to bringing foreign nationals to our shores and putting them in leadership positions. But we are in a crisis... and so we need to contract the kind of police leadership that presents a modern, sophisticated, technological approach to getting the results that we need. And then we need to give our own young and upcoming police world class training. When we get that new leadership we then need to make available to them the sophisticated forensic and investigative instruments and technology that they need to get the job done.
The Government also needs to begin a comprehensive multi-dimensional violence prevention campaign. This campaign should have several facets:
- Violence prevention targeted to adults and involve public education in conflict resolution & negotiation and anger management.
- Mechanisms available to the public that include mediation services and conflict resolution services. Some of these should be availed through the courts whereby individuals might be 'sentenced' to attend anger management or conflict resolutions classes.
- Violence prevention targeted to young adults and teenagers who are out of school. This would involve education in some of the above subjects. However, two key areas of focus would be job skills training and drug prevention education.
- Violence prevention and drug education activities at all schools and at all grade levels. The focal points of these school-based trainings would be: Life skills (effective communication, conflict resolution, self-esteem building, study skills for academic success, how to deal with negative peer pressure and bullying, etc.), values education and character building educational programming.
- An integrated and comprehensive island-wide network of after-school activities involving academics (home-work help, remedial work, etc), guided sports activities (with a values education component), performing arts (plays, dance, etc), computer & technology, and art.
- Treatment programs for drug addiction and alcoholism. The Government needs to contract with qualified counseling professionals to provide confidential and ongoing treatment services to addicts and alcoholics. Such services should be provided at every clinic.
- Rehabilitation Services for Juvenile Offenders. This is seen by well placed officials as a critical need. Such services would include some of those mentioned above.
- A Probation and Parole Office should be developed to monitor and track the activities of criminal offenders. This office should also oversee the provision of re-entry programs for offenders who are re-entering society. These services would entail job training, mental health services and substance abuse services.