Opposition Leader Godwin Friday says that crime is in such a state in St. Vincent and the Grenadines that it needs a national event to bring people together to address it.
“We need now almost a national event to sort of say, ‘Listen, we’re pulling the brakes on this. Everybody; as a society. This is not something that you should be dealing with as a partisan political issue’,” he said on Hot97 FM on Friday.
“I mean, let’s start with a big national event. And I am going to organise it if nobody else will do so, where the community comes together and says, ‘Listen, as a community, we’re going to do something about this’,” the opposition leader said.
He was speaking on the day that Purlinea Greaves, who was shot in the head in Dorsetshire Hill Thursday night would become the country’s ninth homicide victim this year, and the third in less than a week.
“We have to have greater trust between the police and communities for dealing with offences because this is where you get conviction. This is where you get people feeling that … if I do something, other persons are going to cooperate with the police and we’re going to deal with it.”
The opposition leader said his proposed national event “is not kumbaya”, as one of the radio personalities had suggested.
He said there is a national response whenever there is a national crisis, as demonstrated “more dramatically, more clearly” when there is something like the volcano erupting.
“Everybody knows that that is happening and people come out and respond and so forth in ways that lifts your spirit.”
He said his national event would not be another iteration of Pan Against Crime, which he described as “one minor drop in the bucket.
“This involves everybody; the whole notion,” Friday said, adding that a small programme can help a few people.
“But we’re reached a point now where the situation has become one where the entire community now is feeling that this could happen anyway. It could happen to anybody. And that is a feeling … that creates fear and a feeling in the community that we have lost out to criminals.”
Friday said that the police have to be more professional and reassure people who are cooperating with them and providing information to them.
“… you can’t have a solution to crime if the police are out there working by themselves. The community has to cooperate,” the opposition leader said.
“That trust between the police and the community is broken. Because the police themselves act in ways that alienate the community rather than bring them together. So, we need to have an event where we say we are taking stock, we are coming together as a community, we are going to let bygones be bygones, in a sense,” Friday said.
“Let us, as a community, say, ‘Listen, this is gone too far. Let us come together and find ways in which we can all work to bring our communities safe again.’”
He said this starts with a national event that will galvanise the public “and then any actions that are taken following that should have better buy-in and better support from communities, from law enforcement, from politicians, from everybody.
“But that gives less space for persons who commit offences, who think that they are going to be able to just ride this out and get away with it.”
He said the narrative that some of the crimes involves a certain set of people and do not concern the rest of the population is nonsense
“… crime is crime, no matter who committed it, where it’s committed, and the state has a responsibility to deal with it and to make our citizens feel safe. So, we have to get rid of that narrative entirely.”
Friday said violent crimes are now taking place in communities with which they were not normally associated, including the shooting in Dorsetshire Hill on Thursday night and the slaying of his cousin, Frankie Gooding, 60, in Friendship, Bequia on Jan. 21.
“… this is what is really making people all over the country feel more than uneasy; they’re feeling unsafe,” Friday said.
He said he did a walkabout in Lowmans on Thursday “and ordinary people, they talk to me about these things and they’re feeling that it’s getting out of hand because we don’t seem to know what is going on, what the police are doing about it, and where it’s going to happen next.
“Well, that is really what is creating the feeling in the country that things are not what they used to be; they’ve gone way beyond the pale now.”
Updated at 10:09 p.m. pm on Feb. 12, 2023, to correct the number of homicides in SVG this year.