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A 2017 iWN photo of the North Windward village of Owia.
A 2017 iWN photo of the North Windward village of Owia.
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By Observer

This piece could have been titled: “Central Kingstown – the most violent place in SVG?” but perhaps it’s time that we begin to headline this plaguing situation of violence with a slightly more positive twist.  

In this piece, we look at the violent crime situation, by the numbers, from 2010 through the end of 2023. Over the years, we’ve built our own dataset, recording violent crimes in the country. This is based on media reports, which we have scrutinized for accuracy and consistency, though some of it may be incomplete. Incomplete in the sense that we may not have captured every single incident, so our numbers may be less than what is officially reported, but not more. Also, in some cases, we do not have the age or name of the victim or some other detail, as victims sometimes choose to not give certain details.

We have excluded shootings by the police and other incidents such as vehicular manslaughter and so on. Rape is also excluded, as that requires its own story. These may account for our numbers being less than the official numbers. Our analysis here is based solely on violent incidents (2010-2023) that have or could have resulted in death. The issue of violent crimes has been ringing in our ears, and that is what we hope to add our own views to in this piece.

Total Cases

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Yes, North Windward appears to be the most peaceful throughout St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We’ve counted less than 10 violent cases in the period analysed. Among those, 4 have been fatal. That’s 2 persons shot; 1 chopped; and 1 beaten. 

In total for these 13 years, we’ve counted at least 877 cases of violent crimes, with 464 being fatal. Of the 877, 564 were gun-related cases, with 276 being fatal. In other words, 564 persons were shot at; 276 of them have died. The remaining 313 of the 877 cases were non-gun-related (stabbing, chopping, beating, etc.), with 188 of those being fatal. That is to say: 188 persons died as a result of being chopped, stabbed, beaten, or otherwise killed.

We’ve observed the most shooting cases in Central Kingstown (103), West Kingstown (101), East St. George (82), South Leeward (70), and East Kingstown (54).

The most chopping cases were in North Central and South Central windward, and Bequia. That’s not to say these were the only communities with chopping incidents over 13 years. It’s widespread, like all other violent incidents, but most have occurred in these three areas. They also have the most female victims.

The most stabbing cases were in Central Kingstown (24), South Leeward (17), West Kingstown (17), East St. George (14), and North Central Windward (9), in that order.

October 2017 is where we saw the highest overall number of cases in a given month. The shooting incident at a Bar in Diamond contributed to this. One person died and several others injured. This is followed by July of 2023 with 17 cases. This is when we had the mass shooting in Kingsown when 7 persons were hit. In all, 12 of the 17 cases were fatal. That includes 1 chopping, 1 stabbing, and 10 shot in July of ‘23. 5 other shootings were not fatal.

Domestic Violence

Males have been victims of domestic violence. Often, it appears as though that is not the case, but we’ve counted at least 10 cases (8 fatal) where males have been victims of domestic violence. Females have been the victim at least 24 times (10 fatal).

Age of Victims

In West Kingstown, where we’ve had the most fatal shootings (56), the average age where it’s available is 34. That’s about the same in most other communities where we’ve had fatal shootings. Essentially what we have been witnessing overall is a grounding of young males 25-35 years old.  In total for the 13 years, where we were able to record an age, 282 cases (of 877) were under age 30. Of that 282, 153 were fatal, with 101 shot (66%). 202 total cases were 30-40 years old; 123 were fatal with 85 shot (69%).

On the question of the age groups, The Vincentian newspaper of Nov. 1, 2013 carried a headline on its front page entitled: “Education PS Scolds unruly School Children”. The then permanent secretary took the microphone to address unruly students at the schools’ independence rally in Victoria Park that year. Among other things, she was quoted as saying “… children and young people, you are becoming a lost generation…”.

Then, nearly three years later (May 13, 2016), Searchlight’s front page carried a story: “St Martin’s Form 2, Class of 2008, told in a few years, half of them would be in prison and the other half would be dead”. As the story detailed, this was told to a class of about 40 unruly boys who were to graduate in 2008. As it turns out, by 2016, a high number of said boys were either dead or in jail.

Has SVG lost a generation?

Victims with priors

Meanwhile, we’ve counted at least 118 cases where the victim had some sort of prior incident (jailed, charged, injured, or have been a witness before). Of the 118, 82 of them have been fatal. In other words, at least 82 of the people who have died by way of a violent crime, have had priors.

Chopping and stabbing

While gun cases have rightfully taken the attention, we should not overlook the number of cases relating to stabbing and chopping. In the 13 years of our analysis, we counted at least 108 cases of chopping (45 fatal), and 115 cases of stabbing (66 fatal). We’ve had at least three judicial officers making a case for something to be done about cutlasses. In 2010, magistrate Donald Browne called for cutlasses to be banned. Similarly, in 2011, Justice Bruce-Lyle was quoted in the local media as being fed up with the number of chopping incidents he had seen. Then again, in a 2019 iWitness News story, Magistrate Rechanne Browne was suggesting that cutlasses should be carried in a sheath.

Should we be as concerned about the cutlass as we are about the gun?

Other observations

At the end of July 2023, we were told that the male prison population is topped by murder convicts, followed by persons charged or convicted for possession of illegal firearms or ammunition. While that is so, we’ve observed many cases where accused persons have been set free after the case fell apart during the court proceedings. It’s so much so that it could lead an ordinary person to conclude that defense lawyers are having a field day in court with no-case submissions. 

Not only that, but it appears as though there’s shoddy work being done on the part of the prosecutorial services.  In some cases, the same accused person has been set free multiple times. Also in some cases, some persons who were freed have ended up being killed. Once again, it may be fair for any person in the Vincentian to context to suggest that once a person has been charged, that makes him/her “guilty”, which could leave that person exposed to injury. One must wonder if this is not contributing to the rise in cases.

Some defence lawyers have been making the argument for years, where the police have been seemingly charging persons, and then try to build the case afterwards, which leads to adjournment after adjournment and then eventually to the accused being set free.

Final thoughts

While shooting incidents are front and foremost in our minds, they’re clearly not our only problem. While studying these cases, it occurred to me that perhaps we haven’t done enough to educate our people about the consequences of their actions. In other words, a person should not be more aware of the effects of COVID-19 or what’s going to get you sued, more than they should the penalty for causing harm to a fellow citizen.

COVID came along and we scrambled a media blitz, flooding the airwaves with an awareness campaign. How about we also flood the airwaves summarising the penalty for shooting and chopping and stabbing so that this too can ring in the ears of our young people, to get them to perhaps think twice about their actions? That’s in addition to increasing the penalties, like many have been suggesting; so, let’s not just increase them, but also engage in an awareness campaign.

One other thing we should consider is highlighting more the hefty sentences that come out of the court. The sentences that we do not agree with, or we think are too lenient are what usually capture our attention. To balance this, perhaps the same amount of time should be spent highlighting the heavier sentences. 

We have a problem! Nonetheless, based on our numbers, North Windward appears to be the most peaceful place in SVG.  

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].

2 replies on “North Windward — The most peaceful place in SVG?

  1. nancysauldemers says:

    This article leaves me wondering if perhaps we have not done enough to educate the author about the geography of this country. Observor posits that North Windward may be the most peaceful place in SVG (which, last time I checked meant St. Vincent AND the Grenadines), yet fails to mention the Southern Grenadines at all and makes only one passing reference to Bequia. With no mention whatever of any of the Southern Grenadines (Canouan, Mayreau and Union Island) and only one passing mention of the Northern Grenadines in this piece, does that mean we’ve not had any violent incidents or crime here in the 13 years under discussion other than the Bequia chopping incidents? Does that make the Grenadines, and more specifically the Southern Grenadines the most peaceful place in the country?

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