New statistics are revealing that more than half of this country’s gun-related killings over three of Barbados’ bloodiest years on record have remained unresolved at a time when Attorney General, Dale Marshall has said that “significant inroads” were being made in the crime situation.
Senior statistician with the Criminal Justice and Research Planning Unit (CJRPU), Tameisha Howell, during a webinar entitled An Examination of Gun-Related Homicides in Barbados from 2018-2020 noted that over the last three years, guns remained the weapon of choice, accounting for 64 per cent of all recorded homicides over 26 per cent where knives were used.
The apparent increase in the number of gun-toting young men is making it extremely difficult for law enforcement officials to close murder cases recorded between 2017-2020. According to Howell, this is reflected in a massive reduction in the number of homicides solved when compared with trends recorded nearly 10 years ago.
“Only 45 per cent of gun-related homicides were solved. More than half of knife-related homicides were solved, while other weapons, which include chopping, striking with a piece of wood and knives/choking/burning or beatings and blows to the head were all solved,” Howell disclosed.
“This 45 per cent clearance rate reaffirms that the use of guns can make it difficult in clearing up those homicides due to little personal contact required by this type of weapon, which leaves little to no evidence compared to beatings or stabbings that require close contact,” the researcher added.
Howell cited research, which shows that the use of sharp objects, blunt objects or strangulation methods in homicides leaves more physical evidence behind, making it much easier for police to solve the cases, in comparison to the impersonal nature of gun-crimes. Therefore, as gun-related homicides increase, the likelihood of solving homicides decreases.
She noted that over the last three years, 62 per cent of all homicides in Barbados were solved, representing a change from 2010-2014, when 95 per cent of homicides were solved. According to the CJRPU’s research, gang-related activity was found to be a major factor influencing young men to possess and use guns.
The three years under scrutiny are some of the bloodiest years in Barbados’ history, particularly 2019, when the 48 murders recorded represented the highest number ever documented in a calendar year and tied to a 72 per cent increase in gun-related homicides.
According to the statistics, the highest concentration of homicides over the period under review were in St Michael (54 per cent) and St Philip (16 per cent), which appears consistent with theories which suggest that criminal activity is more likely to be experienced in low-income, densely-populated areas.
Even more troubling, the researcher pointed out was an apparent inability on the part of the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) to recover firearms, some of which are believed to have been disposed of in the ocean.
In response to concerns about the direction of law and order in the country, Attorney General Dale Marshall explained that Government’s work has been taking on a multifaceted character and remains a work in progress.
During Wednesday night’s Global Town Hall Meeting for Barbadians Living in the Diaspora, Marshall once again pointed to Government’s efforts to erase a massive backlog of criminal cases with the appointment of three additional high court judges.
“You may not immediately see that as a strategy, but it is really a common sense thing that when people commit violent crimes and the judicial system does not act and respond swiftly, then there is really no deterrent for those other individuals who may want to get involved in that kind of activity. And they say justice has to be swift and firm and we are at the point now where we are seeing relatively recent incidents of violent crime being dealt with,” the Attorney General explained.
“When people think of violent crime, they also think for instance of firearm crimes and we put a strategy in place where bail is refused to those who are charged with firearm crimes. Unfortunately, that has hit a snag in our High Court, which is being appealed, and then there are the other softer measures that are really are adjunct to law enforcement,” he added.
In addition to hardcore law enforcement measures, Marshall acknowledged that more work still needed to be done to address societal influences contributing to crime.
“We have tried to identify 600 vulnerable families. One of the obvious things that I would imagine is that vulnerable families are those, that because of the circumstances not of their own making, whether it is low education standard, poverty, it allows the young people in those families to be more easily drawn into a criminal environment,” said Marshall.
“And, therefore a lot of what we are doing is not just law enforcement but also other matters to lift up the standard of those vulnerable families to steer our vulnerable people away from crime,” he added.