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There will be blood

Saturday, December 4, 2010

When I read the stories in the newspapers of another family having lost a loved one at the hands of murderous bandits in this country, I find myself struggling to contain a strong physiological reaction which can only be described as heightened nausea. Not even the black and white of the newspaper photograph capturing the grief dilutes the almost palpable misery of the ones left behind. I have written ad nauseum about crime, but not only is this problem here to stay, it is morphing, changing in front of our eyes into an utterly unmanageable beast. We are on the verge of losing control of this chimera which we ourselves have created. For those of you who think it can get no worse than this, this is exactly what these career criminals are counting on.

logoWhen I began my career as a journalist in 1991, murders were perceived in news coverage as a traumatic anomaly in the calendar of events. The truth is crime has always been with us, and I am not talking about aberrations like the criminally insane Mano Benjamin mass murderer Boysie Singh who were more cult of personality than products of a decayed society. Giving a simple example, if you look at homes constructed in the mid-60s to early 70s in this country, they all have one thing in common: they are all constructed with burglar-proofing. Whatever you may say about home design of that era, none of the jurisdictions that I have visited throughout the Caribbean have as a standard feature of housing elaborate defences covering all doors and windows.

So we have always been actively conscious of the existence of the criminal element in our society. What we had for the most part in those days was a now extinct species of criminal called “burglar.” What a burglar would do is break in to homes during work hours or when the occupants are away on vacation. I can imagine how strange this sounds in the context of crime today. The burglar has since been replaced by the bandit, and the bandit actually favours ambush tactics. They want you home when they come calling because they are likely to have a far more lucrative haul by employing the duress of mercilessly pummeling the homeowners rather than the inefficient rummaging through mothball-filled drawers with nothing more than some old English coins and a crusty set of false teeth.

There is also a psychological release for these bandits who use their targets to vent their frustrations. Throwing down a dresser in a fit of rage simply does not have the almost narcotic effect that beating the loot out of a whimpering family can give. Reflecting on my early days as a reporter, though I cannot put an exact date to it (owing to my advancing years), I remember a definite sea change in the nature of reported crimes. From my recollection in the mid-90s onward, murders began to increase in frequency, but there was something else. There was brutality attended upon the victims of robberies that was becoming more common place. It is impossible to purge my mind of one of the most horrific crime stories I have covered: the killings of Candace Scott and Karen Sa Gomes in 1994.

A then 16-year-old Chuck Attin, who wielded an inexplicable influence over Noel Seepersad, a man four years his senior, pushed his way into a house in Westmoorings and lay in wait for these women. To recount the horrors which unfolded in under that roof on that dark day I fear will be too much for the family to bear. I know it is for me. And Chuck Attin remained stone-faced and unmoved by what he had done. There were also revelations during those proceedings which were never made public but gave some insight into the sinister mind of this murderous teenager. Even as Chuck Attin continues to fight for his release, the argument has been that what happened on that day was a manifestation of a malfunctioning mind, some underlying psychosis that informed the a terrible evil. If that is so then there must be something in the water, because this is now the calling card of every bandit in circulation.

Kidnap Victim Debbie Ali was tortured in a way that would have broken most ordinary people. She has done her own soul-searching, trying to understand what was behind the viciousness of her abduction and detention. What her experience pointed out is that her kidnappers were not the only villains in that scenario. She could hear the voices of women where she was being held and the only conclusion that she could draw is that these women were complicit in the activities in her kidnappers. This of course is not unusual because most of these cold-blooded hyenas perceive a kidnapping as a purely financial transaction. I have a product that you desperately want and that means that you should be willing to meet whatever price is attached to that commodity.

By that reasoning, it is of no particular concern to the distributor what condition the customer gets his product in. Mind you, this is a perishable item and if the kidnapper does not fetch a reasonable sum upon the conclusion of negotiations, then the goods must be disposed of. It is becoming increasingly clear that the Police Service and more specifically this new Police Commissioner is grossly underestimating the propensity of this evolved criminal to commit extreme acts of violence with no due deference to the risk of being apprehended (and it is the slimmest of risks). If the Police Commissioner is “disturbed” by the recent spike in killings, then he is going to be absolutely “perplexed” as criminal culture ups the ante, killing witnesses to major crimes in full view (and unmasked) of others.

I think Vision on Mission’s Wayne Chance is quite right; the criminals are testing the resolve of an untested Police Commissioner. With all due respect to you, Mr Gibbs, you need to get your a-- in gear. These tired old roadblocks and “lockdowns” are of little use if individuals within your own Police Service are giving these killers a heads up before any police operation descends on an area. You have to handle this mess like Elliot Ness: develop a cadre of trusted, competent officers and keep operational details on a need-to-know basis. Putting officers out on the streets to do nothing is pointless; we have traffic lights for that. Ensure that there are regular reports on police patrols, how they have been executed, what they have accomplished, what information has been gathered, and how many relationships have been built in crime-stricken areas.

Do this now, Commissioner Gibbs, or I can assure this situation can easily deteriorate further. You will move from “disturbed” to “perplexed” to “departed.” I am sure even a cold welcome back home in freezing Edmonton is better than fallout of your failure here.


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