In the first 119 days of 2008, eight murders have been committed in the Federation of St. Kitts-Nevis. If this pace continues, the country can expect to have a homicide body count of 25 by the end of this year.
Here is the roll call of the dead:
On Jan. 28, Mr. Leon Westerman, 28, of Charlestown was shot to death.
On March 11, Mr. Derrick Gumbs, Jr, 21, was shot to death on St. Kitts.
On March 18, the bodies of Mr. Leon Willock, 20, and Mr. Orlando Williams, 25, were found on St. Kitts. Both were shot to death.
On April 5, Alphonso Richards, 25, of St. Pauls Village was stabbed to death. On Monday, April 7, Lionel Warner, alias “Shaggy” of Dieppe Bay was arrested and charged for the murder.
On April 12, the body of Gregory Zakers, 20, of Basseterre, was found at Black Rocks.
On April 18, the seventh and eighth murders of this year were committed, both on St. Kitts.
Before noon, police responded to a report of shooting at the junction of Cunningham Street and Shaw Avenue. There they found the body of Charles Benjamin Matthew, 32, of Cunningham Street.
In the evening, police responded to a report of stabbing at the junction on Market and Central Streets. There they found the body of Tau Gowon, 26, of Delisle Garden.
How bad is it in the Federation?
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 2008 Annual Report, which covers activities during 2007:
“The Caribbean region suffers from the world’s highest murder rates, some 30 per 100,000 people annually. In 2007, young people were disproportionately represented among the ranks of homicide victims and perpetrators, with youth homicide rates in several Caribbean countries significantly above the world average.
“Overall assault rates were also significantly above the world average.”
Right now, the Federation is on pace to hit a murder rate of 25 per 40,000 – significantly, no astronomically worse, than the U.N.’s report of 30 per 100,000.
The victims’ ages range from 20-32, perhaps past the age of youth, but certainly not old. That also fits the mold of the U.N. report.
What can be done about it?
Political leaders can give their full backing to efforts of law enforcement officials and the judiciary in penetrating criminal gangs, prosecuting perpetrators and developing programs to keep people of all ages from getting involved in crime.
Educators can teach students about the real and horrible impact that crime has on individuals, families and societies as a whole. They can teach young people that real crime has no relation to the exciting, glamorous world of crime in movies, television and some music. Young people should learn that when real bullets fly, real people die.
Ministers and community leaders should denounce criminals and criminality at every opportunity. They should also develop programs that offer viable alternatives to criminal behavior. And they should make it clear that criminals are not welcome in the community as a whole.
In the end, it will be up to each individual to stand against crime and for what is decent, civilized and worthwhile: The rule of law.