Opposition spokesperson on national security, St. Clair Leacock says his party is not promising that it would eliminate crime and violence in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“… but we provide the assurance, we will reduce it and reduce it significantly. And we would manage it and manage it much better than is the case now,” he said at a press conference held by the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) in Kingstown on Wednesday.
Leacock said that his concept of marrying idle hands to idle lands may sound simple.
“If we put more of our young people to opportunities, gainful opportunities, there will be less provocation and temptation to go off the straight and narrow,” Leacock said.
“We believe that if we use the state institutions and we go back to some of the old cultures and customs where we broaden and deepen and finance and support and promote, as we have done in the New Democratic Party, various apprenticeship programmes for young people, then we are on track to building what must be done.”
He said that SVG must become a second chance society, adding, “we have to continue to throw out that lifeline to save our young people and to save our society”.
Leacock said the answer to a question he posed in Parliament in 2020 shows “a gradual progression of the number of young people who now occupy our prisons — children of the revolution as they were defined.
“Well, we are not into their revolution talk; we believe it more appropriate to promote an evolution from bad parenting, poor parenting to an ideal of a more equitable society.”
Leacock suggested that the NDP’s approach will help steer youth away from crime, adding that civil society and the church have a role to play.
He read an article from a Trinidad newspaper in which a senior police officer spoke of the role of the family in keeping young people away from a life of crime.
Leacock said that years ago, the NDP, through its Spiritual and Social Redemption Charter, detailed a preventative rather than reactive approach to crime and violence.
The ULP, he said, still seems to be taking a reactive approach to crime.
“And yes, one gathers clearly in that report that there is no quick fix. There is no simple solution and that many stakeholders have to be on board and involved in order for us to effectively address the question of crime and violence in our societies,” he said, referring to the Trinidad media article that he quoted.
Leacock said that Trinidad and Tobago is easily richer than all of the rest of the Eastern Caribbean combined and has a very low unemployment rate.
“You can easily come to a recognition that crime is not necessarily a linear, a straight-line relationship between monies and activities.
“It is, better put, a measure of all of the engines of society building a nation for better outcomes. That is an understanding and an undertaking that resides well with us in the Democratic Party. We must look at economics, we must look at social, we must look at the spiritual, we must attend to all of the building blocks,” Leacock said.
“The child comes from a home, it has the parents, they go to a school to be socialised, they attend churches for even more formation and they become members of the wider society to build a culture of decency and moral courage. All of those facets must be at work here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
He pointed out that in supporting its Spiritual and Social Redemption Charter, the NDP had noted that the government EC$13,00 to $15,000 per year to keep a person in prison.
“… and you’re only going to spend $5 to make a person a good Scout, Cadet, Girl Guide, Pathfinder, whatever it is.
“Spend more money on avoiding social deviance by promoting these groups and organizations through what we call a Spiritual and Social Redemption Charter,” Leacock said.
He also spoke of apprenticeship programs, drug abuse resistance programs and support for home, including the party’s policy of ensuring there is at least one person employed in each home.
“… because healthy, and wealthy households produce less crime and people attracted to criminality, and so there’s a whole menu of options that are available, and we can use what we know and we can research that which is out there,” Leacock said.
He said crime and violence is much more a matter of public safety than it is to the broader heading of national security.
The MP said national security generally speaks to protection of national borders and institutions from foreign forces and so forth.
“But public safety is the responsibility of the government to protect its citizens wherever they are,” Leacock said.
He said that while the police chief has said that about 100 people are responsible for the serious crime in SVG, there is hardly a community in the country that has not been affected by a homicide.
“That is an indication that crime and violence has no boundaries, is not limited to 100 actors; it is pervasive and extensive and it must be dealt with summarily.”