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Surrender...and die

By Raffique Shah

 We have tried every conceivable strategy, many inconceivable ones, and some downright dotish crime plans. And we have failed—miserably so. From Anaconda to Iguana, Baghdad to Budapest (where we lost young footballer Akeem Adams to a heart attack, of all things!), nothing has stopped the march of the criminals. 

In hotspots and hitherto cold zones, from every angle and using every weapon, at high noon and in the darkest of nights, they stalk and attack, kill, maim, rape, plunder. In their tsunami-like wake, they leave behind rivers of blood, more corpses than Stephen Ramroop and the ODPM’s bizarre collection of body bags can hold, and the eviscerated souls of victims who will never recover in this life or the next.

Even as the police trumpet a 30-per-cent dent in serious crime last year, the demons usher in the New Year with nine killed in the first three days—an in-your-face insult: yuh think you could tame we? We go show Stephen Williams how not to count!

What more can a beleaguered country do to stem this tidal wave of crime? Maybe we should surrender, and I am not being facetious here. Some might argue, with justification, that we have already done that. There are districts where the police never venture, where criminals “patrol” the streets, weapons in hand. Known gangland bosses are awarded big government contracts that are inaccessible to law-abiding citizens. And on one occasion last year, in the Beetham, we witnessed the alarming spectacle of soldiers in full retreat from a mob of angry residents.

 The surrender I am thinking of, though, is a much more formal affair. Make the biggest white flag you ever saw, bigger than Gary Hunt’s stadium rag-hell, let Peter Minshall design the damn thing. Stage the ceremony in the Savannah, that sacred ground for “wining”, parading, partying, pan and prayers. The 11 or however many gang leaders Minister Gary Griffith has identified, will be invited (fully armed, of course) to accept our surrender, the flag-of-shame borne by Griffith and Commissioner Williams, ensigns worthy of the occasion.

Now, all of this might sound like madness, the ranting of a demented old geezer-it may well be. But who sent me mad? The parade of politicians and impotent police officers who, over the past two decades or more, have failed to rein in crime, who have ceded the whole damn country to criminals. 

Little wonder we are in a seemingly hopeless situation, with everyone pointing fingers at each other even as the gunmen point their gun barrels at their next victims. Blame rogue cops, says Minister Griffith: that’s a new one—50 years new! Blame the entire Police Service, says Minister Bhoe Tewarie. Hang them high, scream pastors and members of the public.

Well, what’s holding back the hangman? It can’t be the law, which is very clear: the penalty for murder is death by hanging. But how can you hang killers you do not know or never arrest? In the rare instances where a handful are held and charged, for reasons best known to the administrators of justice it takes forever to bring them to trial. Securing convictions is as challenging as finding an honest politician.

So people who are calling for a return of the hangman are nincompoops. The hangman is ready to “pop necks”, but the system is not delivering.

What is clear is that in the fourteenth year of the new millennium, we seem to have run out of options to deal with crime. The police pronounce that the numbers are down, an innovative way of using statistics to baffle the brains. Minister Griffith sounded an ominous warning when he took office a few months ago: talk done, time for action! Well, we have seen lots of action, but from the criminals, not the forces of law and order.

Before him, a string of senior police officers and ministers all promised to wipe the floor with the gunmen’s blood. Instead, the killers screwed their faces with bloodied hands. If anything, we have been marking time for decades. For the 40 billion or more of taxpayers’ dollars expended on fighting crime since the year 2000, what have we had but more crime, more blood?

Why have we not installed CCTV cameras and control systems that have proven to help reduce crime and improve arrests rates in many metropolitan cities around the world. They are far from perfect, but they come closest to having round-the-clock eyes monitoring highways, town centres and critical locations. Remember how the Boston Marathon bombers were identified and arrested in quick time?

We have huge numbers of computerised cars on the nation’s roads, but a Licensing Department that’s still in the donkey cart era. Our police stations and departments are not computerised or networked. Police vehicles cannot access vital information in real time. Is there legislation in place to allow CCTV images to be admissible as evidence in court?

I doubt it. Instead, governments waste money on non-essentials as criminals roam free. We might as well surrender...and die.  

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