The approximately EC$1 billion that the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines has spent on national security over the last 10 to 15 years has not had the desired impact on crime, say opposition lawmaker, St. Clair Leacock.
Leacock, the opposition spokesperson on national security, said that while the government spends a lot of money on law enforcement and prisons, its allocation to programmes that have been proven to steer young people from criminally has been miniscule.
Speaking on his New Democratic Party’s (NDP) social media programme “NDP Night Talk”, Leacock said the government has budgeted EC$95 million for national security this year, including EC$45 million for the police force and about EC$7 million to the prisons.
“I highlight those facts to say that if we multiply that over the last 10-15 years, we would see that we have spent over $1 billion on national security and close to $1 billion –certainly over half a billion dollars — on the police and protective services,” the Central Kingstown MP said.
Leacock said on the programme, which discussed an export-led economy in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), that in the face of such large spending “crime has gone in the other direction.
“The more money we spend, the more crime there is. So, obviously, it is not just a resource-allocation issue,” Leacock said.
Crime has become ‘a part of our culture and our psyche’
Official statistics released by the Royal SVG Police Force in January shows that crime has trended downward between 2012 and 2023, with 2018 and 2022 being exceptions.
In 2021, there were 7,540 reported crimes, compared to 4,134 in 2023.
However, as the same time, the country has seen an increase in murders, rising from 28 in 2012 to 52 in 2023, which shattered the record of 42 that was set the previous year.
Leacock said he believes that SVG is at a point where crime has become “a part of our culture and our psyche.
“Bad boyism, temper tantrums, lawlessness, we are getting a lot of that in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Intemperate. It is not good for us. It negatively impacts the marketplace across the world,” he said.
Leacock pointed out that crime cannot be fully eliminated, but spoke of a need to have “a seamless strategy for reducing crime in our beloved St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“And that is something that the New Democratic Party will present in a more detailed form when we get closer to the election…”
He said that for over 15 years the NDP has been speaking about its Spiritual and Social Redemption Charter, “where we are speaking about prevention is better than cure.
“So, we are looking at what do we do in the social, spiritual and redemption aspects of life. And they pooh-poohed it but they have been extracting it now with apprenticeship programmes that they call ON-SITE,” he said, referring to the ruling Unity Labour Party.
“They have suddenly come to the realisation where they say if you are properly educated, the chances of you going to prison is less,” Leacock said, adding that the government has copied “many other aspects” of the charter.
Govt budgets $1 per Girl Guide annually
He said the country once spent EC$13,000 to keep a person in prison for a year.
“And, at that time, we were spending $5 to support a member become a Girl Guide, Boy Scout, Red Cross, Cadet, Pathfinders,” he said, adding that it now cost EC$16,000 to imprison someone for a year.
“… and the expenditure on a Scout, Cadet, Guide is probably about $4,” said Leacock, who attained the rank of major in the Cadet Corp, of which he is also a former commandant.
He noted that during the Jan. 8 opening of the current session of Parliament, House Speaker, Rochelle Forde, a guider, invited a group of Girl Guides to the session.
“And she made the point that in SVG we have $3,000 guides. Beautiful. But the allocation of the government to the guides movement is $3,000.” Leacock said.
“Think of it. The allocation to the Girl Guide movement, our premier socialisation, extra-curricular movement in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Girl Guides, is one dollar a guide. So, we have to turn things on their heads,” he said.
Leacock’s comments came as eh discussed crime in SVG and it impact on sustaining an export-led economy, and specifically the impact of crime on agriculture.
“… praedial larceny is a problem. We have to deal with that. Crime is a problem and it affect immediately the investment climate in St. Vincent and the Grenadines — big time,” he said.
“People will think twice and sometimes three times before they bring their monies here,” he said, adding that the country’s population is declining and that the health care system and crime situation are among the reasons why Vincentians are opting to remain abroad.
Govt contributing to crime — Senator Bruce
Speaking on the same programme, opposition senator and spokesperson for agriculture, Israel Bruce said that high incidences of crime negatively affect an export-led economy
“Some people don’t want you to say it as it is. This government is contributing, the current government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, is contributing to a lot of the problems we are facing,” Bruce said.
He said there are people in the country who have farmer’s ID cards but “don’t have a blade of grass in the ground, nor a hoof on the earth that they take care of…
“They are facilitated to be given a farmer’s ID so that when the state is paying out money to farmers, bona fide farmers, these party hacks, then turn up with their ID cards, their farmer’s IDs, that is, and they collect monies in their pockets improperly.”
He said he is blaming the government because the same people who are legitimately involved in farming find themselves “whether facilitating or engaging in people’s crops and animals and uses these cards to legitimise their criminal activities.