Crime wave highly related to drugs trade
-- CARICOM report By Shirley Thomas
Guyana Chronicle
October 27, 2002

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`To continue on the present path, would all but destroy the region's hope for social and economic development' -- CARICOM Secretary General, Dr. Edwin Carrington

THE Seventh Meeting of the Caribbean Community Council of Human and Social Development (COHSOD), in an objective analysis of the crime situation within the region, has determined that the escalation of crime being witnessed is highly related to drugs and the drugs trade.

This was reported by CARICOM Assistant Secretary General, Dr. Edward Greene at a news conference Friday following the closing session of COHSOD VII at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel, Georgetown.

And concurring on the seriousness of the crime and drugs situation, CARICOM Secretary General, Dr. Edwin Carrington, in his remarks to the closing session, said that crime and the drugs culture are major problems which the Caribbean Community must overcome.

"To continue on the present path, would all but destroy the region's hope for social and economic development," he reiterated.

Commenting on the impact of crime in the region, Greene said a lot of it has to do with the "new wave of crime".

"One of the results of the preliminary discussions within the CARICOM Task Force (on crime)", he told reporters, "was that the reason for the escalation of crime is now highly related to drugs and the drug trade."

Using Guyana, the base of the CARICOM Secretariat as an example, Greene commented: "I think that if you objectively look at what's happening in Guyana, for example, and what seems to be the pattern, according to this report - it is that a lot of the violent, vicious crimes - crimes that really cause fear in society - (a lot of it) is linked to drugs."

"We need to face up to that. That is happening throughout the region at the moment," the Assistant Secretary General added.

There are indications, he said, that Jamaica, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago may be the hardest hit so far.

He said this situation may have come about because of "our vulnerability to seas and open spaces and things like that." He also examined the ability of the protective services to cope with the artillery and infrastructure available to those who deal in illicit drugs and arms.

He said though investigations are still going on, the preliminary report of the CARICOM Task Force on Crime and Drugs is indicating that this vulnerability is one of the major catalysts for this upsurge in crime.

Asked about redefining the role of the security services in joint action, Greene admitted it was one of the considerations at the meeting - a Joint Police/Army action, carefully paying attention to the juridical turf.

Meanwhile, expressing a regional position on the involvement of deportees in this worrying upsurge in crime, the Assistant Secretary General affirmed: "There is no evidence yet to demonstrate that the deportees, on whom a lot of the blame for crime is put...there is no major evidence yet to indicate that this is so."

He reiterated: "It's not that they're not involved in crime, but so far, there is no major evidence to say that this is a major cause."

However, Greene pointed out: "Given the increasing numbers of deportees that are coming back to our shores, the report is saying...`In time, it is projected it will be a more serious problem'."

He said it is the view of COHSOD that if the region is going to accept deportees regularly, then the question of rehabilitation assumes a prominent place.

"Therefore, one of the things we have to work on as a priority, since in fact we are accepting deportees regularly, would be to find a mechanism for rehabilitation."

"We have to find a mechanism of working with a cross section of stakeholders, including the business community - for greater absorption and reintegration into the mainstream society, or else unemployment and all those things, will continue to fester, and to create the basis for the continuing circle of this problem," he said.

He said COHSOD is asking the Task Force on Crime and Drugs to take into consideration, when it meets in Trinidad this week, the establishment, as soon as possible, of National and Regional Crime Commissions.

The Task Force is due to meet in Trinidad from Wednesday to Friday to carry forward some of the mandates the Heads of Government have requested.

"...what we are saying is that because of what the report is showing, this Commission on Crime and Drugs should be one that is holistic, even though it might break itself down into sub committees...there should be some interconnectivities."

He said that, more importantly, on that committee should be the Civil Society, since it is Civil Society that is at the end of the panic and the scare.

The council has also pointed to the need to pursue joint surveillance and information sharing activities - in particular, in dealing with the technological requirement for the tracking and sharing of information.

Admitting that a lot of these things are quite expensive, he said that what is being proposed is that "We (the region) talk with the donor agencies in the United Kingdom and the United States that seem very sympathetic, so as to come up with the required support to put in place things like (electronic) fingerprinting at the airports".

He recalled that on an experimental basis the electronic fingerprinting led to the capturing of a gang of very seasoned and highly renowned drug dealers in the Cayman Islands a year ago, running concurrently with a meeting of the Caribbean Association of Commissioners of Police.

He noted that that development illustrated at that meeting, the importance of the technology contracted.

COHSOD also saw as important in the fight, education and public information on these issues, with a view to bringing about behaviour change.

It was noted that persons who are in need, for example, could be very vulnerable and susceptible to the temptation to gain the "quick bucks", although they know the chances of being caught are quite great.

Greene added: "What the report showed, which was very phenomenal was that, in large measure, it was 'the very small' that is caught, and not necessarily the big dealers."

That, he said, constitutes a cause for concern, since the report showed that "...invariably, the non-capture of the real barons is also sometimes related to what they perceive to be corruption, and so that's another element that we have to look at."

COHSOD VII was chaired by Suriname's Minister of Education and Community Development, Mr. Walter Sandriman.