KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace says that he is not pretending to have the solution to crime here.
Eustace said that a recent report by an international organisation shows that the developed world has a murder rate of eight per 100,000.
This country registered 25 homicides last year and there are “serious increases” in crime generally, he further stated.
He said that in the five months ending May 2011, there were 736 reports of burglaries, 63 more than same period of 2010, while theft has risen by 220 cases to 1345 in that same period year-on-year.
“What this is showing … is that there is a marked increase in crimes against property and person in this country and we have to arrest it,” he said.
“I don’t even pretend to know the mechanism but I think that with heads put together we can come up with some sort of mechanism to address this important issue in our society. Because I am convinced that it is grounded in declining values. And all of us… are to blame,” he said.
“… but I do not – and I will repeat this anywhere – attribute crimes related to murder and so on to any government. That is a matter which stands before all of us,” Eustace further stated.
“… I have an intention not to talk. I have an intention to write to the Prime Minister of this country on this matter of a mechanism, which is more all embracing, which is non-party political, to address the issues of crime in our country and to make recommendation,” Eustace further said.
“I am really worried about the extent of the crime and the heinousness of some of the crime. It is not like us as a people,” he said.
Eustace said that all Vincentians have a role and a responsibility where homicides are concerned, adding that the country cannot resolve the problem unless all segments – including government, opposition, church, family, police, teachers and youth organisations — get together.
Eustace said that the heinousness of some of the homicides here “is unbelievable”.
He spoke of the case in which Junior Lowman, 23, of Georgetown who died on Jan. 1, just over a week after he was allegedly thrown into a cooper cauldron of boiling water with his hands tied after reportedly trying to steal a farmer’s sheep.
Three men have been charged with murder in relations to Lowman’s death.
“None of us can agree to that. There is no justification whatsoever for committing a crime of that nature. Even if he was doing something that was wrong …” Eustace said.
“… it tells us something about our society and some of the directions that we are going.”
He also mentioned the beheading of a woman at the Leeward Bus Terminal and the beheading and disembowelling of a farmer several years ago and the rape and murder of an old woman in Chateaubelair last year.
“I raised these issues … because they say something about our psyche. What are we becoming … that we can find ourselves resorting [to these actions?]. It is a serious issue … and I am convinced … that this has to do with our values and the extent to which these have declined in the last decade or two,” Eustace said.
“And we seem not to have any undue concern about it unless it touches us directly. But we can’t continue like that…. And we, on this side of the house, we recognise the important role of the police and other such forces – prison officers and so on. But we are saying that the society, as a whole, has to get up and take note and to take action,” Eustace told Parliament.
“But that is what we are attacking, the value system, and the need to strengthen those institutions in our country like the cadet and so on … which preach values…” he said.
“All have to become involved in this exercise,” Eustace further said. “It is the mechanism that we need to get everybody fighting from the same corner. Because we can’t continue like this.”
He said that some children’s socialisation lead to criminality and accessed to globalised media further compound the situation.
“We can’t get away from that,” Eustace said.
“Nowadays, sometimes you wonder whether you are safe in your own home and you wonder about your children when they go out, whether they will come home. We even have some that have disappeared. And the crimes of murder, rape, assault, theft and so on, they have been going out of all bounds,” Eustace said.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves on Monday said Vincentians should not be satisfied with saying that the country’s murder rate is lower than their Caribbean neighbours