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Poverty and crime
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By C. ben-David

For some time, the worsening crime situation in St. Vincent and the Grenadines [SVG] has enveloped the nation in a climate of fear that is contributing to a lack of confidence in law enforcement” (New Democratic Party [NDP] of SVG, Nov. 8, 2018).


The so-called “worsening crime situation” and its link to economic adversity has been grossly exaggerated by the NDP as my last crime and the economy opinion piece showed.

Since there are many party faithful who stubbornly refuse to accept any facts, some even maliciously accused me of data fabrication, it is necessary to continue this discussion by also interrogating the NDP position, repeatedly expressed, that crime has gone up in SVG in the past few years because of economic adversity, using the most recent annual data for SVG (Table 1) and for three additional countries (Table 3).

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Table 1 reproduces the 2012-2016 crime figures for SVG reported in the previous essay, adding to it the data for 2017. This is done to question the NDP’s repeated refrain that there is a “national crisis of crime and violence in SVG” characterized by a skyrocketing murder rate.

Table 1. SVG Reported Crimes per 100,000*

SVG 2017 SVG 2012-2016
Population 109,897 ~110,000
Murders 37 28.4
Sexual Assaults 215 193.5
Robberies 70 127.0
Shootings 38 34.4
Residential Burglaries 476 691.3
Drug Crimes** 247 337.8
Total Crimes 1,143 1,386.9
Per Capita GDP ($US) 7,271 7,030
Unemployment (%) 20 20


** These figures refer to convictions rather than reports.

To the NDP’s certain dismay, the data in Table 1 show no overall upward trend in crime reports last year compared to the average of the previous five years. Murders and sexual assaults went up; shootings stayed about the same; and robberies, burglaries, and drug crimes went down. Thankfully, the rate of total crimes was down by nearly 18 percent.

In short, the data show no grounds for claiming, as the NDP repeatedly does, that “crime and violence continue to spiral out of control” based on a “worsening crime situation.”

To be sure, there was a dramatic and worrying increase in the murder rate in SVG between 2012-2016 and 2017 — indeed levels in 2016 and 2017 were the highest in our history — but this must be contextualized within the longer time period shown in Table 2 and Chart 1 to discover any long-term patterns.

Table 2. SVG Murders by Year

Year Number Numerical Change
2003 11     —
2004 25     +14
2005 24        -1
2006 13     -11
2007 36     +23
2008 27        -9
2009 20        -7
2010 20        0
2011 25        +5
2012 21        -4
2013 28        +7
2014 27        -1
2015 37     +10
2016 40        +3
2017 39        -1

These data do not show a steady upward trend during the period of Unity Labour Party rule. Indeed, the rate of murder oscillated much more than the rate of other crimes during the period.

This is why the Prime Minister of SVG, Ralph E. Gonsalves, was correct to claim that: “It is too early to assert that the new high for both reported murders [40 in 2016, 39 in 2017, and 33 up to the end of November in 2018] and the number occasioned by gunshot wounds represent a trend.”

To be sure, there has been an increase in murder rates all over the Caribbean, including SVG, during the past few decades. When Jamaica gained independence in 1962, the murder rate was 3.9 per 100,000 inhabitants, one of the lowest in the world. In 2005, Jamaica had 1,674 murders for a rate of 58 per 100,000 people, the highest in the world. In 2017, there were 1,616 murders in Jamaica, part of a decline over the previous 12 years but a level that still made that country the fourth most murderous place on earth.

SVG is no outlier when it comes to lethal violence.

The data in Table 3 below comparing the crime rates in four additional Commonwealth Caribbean countries (six others were discussed in the previous crime essay) only adds to what uninformed and biased NDP supporters would consider a puzzling lack of correlation between: (1) types of crime with one other and (2) types of crime with key economic indicators like per capita GDP and unemployment levels.

Table 3. 2017 Reported Crimes per 100,000 Population in Four Caribbean Countries

The Bahamas ­Jamaica Trinidad and Tobago SVG
Population 395,361 2,890,299 1,369,125 109,897
Murders          31            56**              36**          36
Robberies        175                8            213          70
Shootings      n.a.*              16              52          38
Burglaries        433                6           159        476
Per capita GDP ($US) 26,539        4,798    15,351    7,271
% Unemployment      10          10          5      20

*not available; **In the last essay, I erroneously listed the Jamaica and T&T rates as 202 and 148, respectively. I apologize for the inadvertent computational error.

Jamaica, with the highest murder rate, had the lowest rate in the three other crime categories; The Bahamas, with half the unemployment and nearly four-fold the per capita wealth of SVG, had over twice the robbery but almost the same burglary rate and an only slightly lower murder rate; and Trinidad and Tobago had the same murder rate as SVG and three times the robbery rate yet featured one-quarter of SVG’s unemployment rate and twice its per capita GDP.

Murders and robberies, our most terrifying crimes of violence that intuitively appear to be connected to economic adversity, are actually unrelated to severe economic misfortune in both space and time among the 10 Commonwealth countries discussed in this series of opinion pieces.

There are two important lessons to be learned from this essay and the four that preceded it, though brainwashed NDP supporters would never be able to learn them: (1) disparities among all kinds of crimes, including murder, cannot be simplistically reduced to variations in unemployment or poverty levels and (2) it is not credible to claim that Vincentian “crime and violence continue to spiral out of control” producing a “worsening crime situation,” implying that we are somehow exceptional in this regard from a Caribbean perspective.

To make such a hysterical claim is like crying fire in a crowded theatre. Doing so shows that it the NDP’s inflammatory rhetoric, not the facts on the ground, that, “… has enveloped the nation in a climate of fear.”

After over 16 years in the political wilderness, hapless NDP leaders are still bouncing from pillar to post desperately trying to score a few cheap political points manufacturing one imaginary crisis after another. Once more they have failed.

Its increasingly disheartened supporters deserve better than this. Or maybe not.

At least former party leader, Arnhim Eustace, was honest enough to admit several years ago that:

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 [of crime] in our society. Because I am convinced that it is grounded in declining values. And all of us… are to blame.

“… 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.”

Truer words were never spoken.


This is the fifth in a series of essays on crime and the economy in SVG. Find the rest here.

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected]

The opinions presented in this content belong to the author and may not necessarily reflect the perspectives or editorial stance of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

7 replies on “The New Democratic Party is dead wrong about crime”

  1. Vincy in new York says:

    Cheese and bread! Breadfruit and jack fish! CBen can make a mockery of numbers.

    Check out the figures for Jamaican. They are visibly incorrect.

    For the umpteenth time, stay away from numbers. Math is not your forte.

    Your analyses do not prove any disconnect between crime and the economy.

    1. It is regrettable that you keep making this specious charge.

      Please click on the word “Jamaica” in column three of Table 3 which will take you to the United States Department of State site where I obtained the data; in turn, the State Dept. obtained the figures from the Government of Jamaica.

      If you don’t like the numbers, that is not my fault.

      As for the relation between crime and the economy, I never said there was no connection only that the relation proposed by the NDP was both simplistic and exaggerated, as all the data I have presented clearly proves.

      1. I have no problem with David’s numbers or the argument he makes about the NDP’s claim of rising crime. Within the confines of the argument he is making, David’s position is flawless.

        There is, however, a deeper problem that these numbers prove …both for St. Vincent and the broader Caribbean. We are in a living in a time of barbarians. There is simply no other way of characterizing these numbers which demonstrate that in SVG for more than a decade, and in Jamaica for more than three decades, we are among the most murderous societies in the world where there is no civil war.

        The NDP is therefore correct in attributing blame to the ULP. It does not and should not inflate the crime numbers to attack the ULP. It should treat the numbers for exactly what they are: absolute proof that under ULP governance Vincentians are being shot and killed in greater numbers than ever. And the government must take the blame for not making SVG more secure. That is the first function of government.

        If there is a problem with David’s representations is that while he legitimately criticizes the NDP for their mis-use of the data, he offers no condemnation of the ULP for its decades long security failures. And while the NDP’s foolishness, the ULP’s inability to make St. Vincent safe is the greater problem.

        Unfortunately, I have no reason to believe that the NDP would be any better than the ULP in bringing security to SVG.

  2. You said Jim that “We are living in a time of barbarians. There is simply no other way of characterizing these numbers which demonstrate that in SVG for more than a decade” and during that decade Jim we have had only one family regime in leadership and power here, The Gonsalves family.

    Further as you have rightly pointed out in this, that as such, there is “absolute proof that under ULP governance Vincentians are being shot and killed in greater numbers than ever. And the government must take the blame for not making SVG more secure. That is the first function of government.”

    However, when it comes down to accepting full responsibility for their poor crime management during their tenure, we are greeted with the response from Minister of security who is both head of the ruling family and head of Government, that he does not have to give us an account each time someone is shot and killed. What profound arrogance!

    But surely Jim if in 2003 we suffered 11 Murders here and 40 in 2016, why can that fact not be treated as a substantial increase in the murder rate here by the NDP? They as the main opposition are most certainly entitled to sound the alarm and voice their fears as to what is happening in our communities. After all these things are most unpresented for us the natives.

    As pointed out before, poverty and neglect and our nation’s affair with ungodliness are three of our biggest problems. Regardless whether one is God fearing or not, poverty and neglect by government, will have serious effects on our outlook and our access to wealth also.

    Our recent decline into great lawlessness may have coincided with the world’s and our retreat from biblical Christianity and moreover during recent times, our nation have seen it fit to overthrow God too, as is most observable in the way we now conduct funerals here.

    Many here too, say that they are Christians, they proceed to erect several churches on every conceivable road, but the Church Ministers seek to engage themselves in theatrics rather than to teach traditional Bible doctrines. This behaviour is partly because they themselves have never learned those doctrines.

    One may thus say, what a shocking state that we are in, with poor Government, poor community security, poor understanding of traditional church doctrines and equally poor wealth too boot. The Promotion of false religion, depravity and crimes must surely follow as is noted in Romans 1: 18-24 (New King James Version)!

    We further read at Romans: 1: 24-32 (New King James Version) the following an act of God on the ungodly, the same gives description to our state of being.

    “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonour their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

    For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.

    And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers,

    Backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.”

    We as a people, most surely have our own part to play in creating a pleasant and enjoyable environment to live in, free from murders, the thief and wanton fear but so too does government, who are charged with the responsibility of protecting us from violence and dangerous criminals.

    It is plainly unacceptable for the ULP’s leadership and its supporters to say that crime has increased everywhere, therefore we should just live with it.

  3. I think C. Ben was accurate about the airport but he seems to be terribly ignorant about other topics. Anyone who is older than a teenager knows that poverty certainly influences crime. It is just plain stupid to say otherwise. This is a fact that has been known for thousands of years. The ULP certainly gives fertile soil to the increase of crime. The very heavy taxes and all the very high costs in SVG discourages investment. It seems those in the present government think like C. Ben on this topic, that is why we will not see a reduction in crime, they will only do like what is occuring in Europe with refugee crimes: Not allow them to be reported!

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