By L.K. Hewlett
St. Kitts Reporter
Seven murders and even more shooting incidents these past six months and yet the Minister of National Security claims that crime is on the decrease.
Honourable Dwyer Astaphan made the incredulous statement during an interview with The Observer shortly after the shooting spree began.
He said that although it appeared every time one turned around they heard that someone got shot, statistics proved that crime was decreasing.
“The statistics will mean nothing to people, when they hear we’ve had three shootings in one day. However the statistics do indicate that last year January to May there were 859 recorded offences and for the same period this year there were 569.
“Unfortunately, the record will show that every now and again you have a spike in human activity and it is unfortunate that right now we are experiencing a spike in gun related activity. The general public needs to understand that this is a small group of ill advised, misdirected, criminal-minded people who do not want to live within the confines of legality,” he said.
He went on to say that in the month of May 2006, there were 198 recorded criminal incidents compared to the corresponding period this year where there was a major reduction, with only 98.
“People see and hear the violent behaviour and of course they become frightened and they want to know what is going on. Very easily people will panic say the government is not doing anything, but the government is. We have invested heavily in building out a Canine Unit so that the dogs can sniff out drugs, guns, ammunition and bombs. There has been an increase in stop and searches and in spite of what some people may think or say, we have a pretty active Coast Guard that patrol our coastlines. One of the things that is happening that is a tremendous help to law enforcement and maintaining law and order is that more and more members of the public are assisting. And regardless of what tools, equipment and facilities a security organisation may have, without the support and cooperation of the general public it will add up to nought,” Astaphan cited.
He said that the criminal activities we are seeing here in the federation are not unique to us; it was also a problem regionally and internationally. He said this was not something to be tied into petty day after day politics; it was a more psychological and social phenomenon that needed to be properly explored and understood.
“More adults need to get involved in the peace process and nation building. It’s very easy to sit back and say the ministry is not doing anything and the police are not doing anything. There’s nothing further from the truth. But with all of the effort that we have been putting in, we still need that community and stakeholder groups to get a grip of it. If you don’t stand up and try to fix things, then things will fix you and you’ll lose out,” he said.
Astaphan described the upsurge in gun related killings and incidents as part of an international wave of criminality and antisocial behaviour that is capable of gripping this and the next generation by removing morality and replacing it with amorality.