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Commentary: Challenging the status quo on crime in the Caribbean!
Published on January 20, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Neals Chitan

2014 began with crime rates soaring ridiculously high in the Caribbean. Reports have indicated that in the first seven days of this year, the southern twin republic of Trinidad and Tobago reported 19 homicides and counting.

Neals J. Chitan is the Grenadian-born president of Motiv-8 For Change International -- a Toronto based High Impact Social Skill Agency that is specially dedicated to the social empowerment of individuals, families and communities
A recent article from Caribbean Journal asked the question, “Can Jamaica control its crime problem?” while the January 8 issue of Caribbean News Now reports that based on a Florida maritime lawyer’s opinion “Bahamas is one gunshot away from cruise lines exit.”

In this very issue, fellow Caribbean News Now commentary writer Phillip Edward Alexander, in his article captioned “My plan for fixing crime in Trinidad and Tobago”, outlined very practical enforcement steps to curbing, containing and dealing with criminals on a per demographic basis. This reactive template I agree is necessary and must be rolled out if any meaningful results can be realized, starting as he suggests, with the purging of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service of its “rogue” officers.

Even if I do applaud Mr Alexander for his plan and his determination to have it submitted to the minister of national security of T&T, I again want to give the clarion call for a deeper and more serious proactive psychosocial approach to crime reduction and prevention in the Caribbean, an approach that looks at and treats the root causes.

And so on the enforcement front, I could not agree more with Mr Alexander. However, after we may have flushed out the police service and in turn flushed out the criminal elements in their respective communities, if we do not put real social concepts and strategies in place to deal with the personal, family and community dysfunctions at the root, it’s only a matter of time before crime and criminals are full grown again and like a volcano begin to spew its deadly lava down on the same communities.

Let me confidently step out and say to the governments of the Caribbean that, unless you get out of your comfort zone and professional day to day routines and invest in the social empowerment of your people, especially your youth, you are fighting a losing and recurring battle with crime.

As a crime reduction specialist, who has worked in Canada, England, Africa, the USA and the Caribbean, I can honestly say that not too many administrators that I have met are willing to forge an unprecedented path to change. Traditional outdated methods and theories that are not even relevant to this post-modern millennial generation are conveniently and effortlessly engaged and re-engaged, yet with miraculous change expected.

Nobody wants to “rock the boat.” No one will challenge the status quo. It’s a “just business as usual” attitude in the offices and departments of people who were hired to make a difference on their nation and help to preserve the future, the youth.

You see, my friends, in an “enforcement approach” to crime, the status quo demands that criminals are processed through the judicial system and made to stand the consequences of their offence.

Although this approach exemplifies justice at its core and can sometimes cause individuals to think about changing their behaviour, the motivation for that change may only be the severity or dislike of the punishment. It does not ensure that the offender has learned any new skill which will help him/her to deal with the circumstances that led to the offense. In this model, recidivism is very likely as soon as the fear or memory of the punishment has faded and the circumstances that motivated the offense in the first place, reoccur.

On the contrary, to make serious impact on crime in the Caribbean, or anywhere else for that matter, does not call for an all therapeutic approach either. It would take a good balance between enforcement which is reactive and social rehabilitation which is proactive to engage sustainable crime reduction and prevention.

So Mr Alexander’s plan to use enforcement to uproot the criminal elements at a community level is well warranted. However, if during enforcement and institutionalizing, social rehabilitative strategies aimed at addressing the root causes of their social dysfunctions can be engaged, the outcome can be nothing but favourable.

With the criminal elements now contained and treated, the proactive prevention work can begin in these communities engaging children, youth and adults in strategies that will help them deal with issues like; disrespectful confrontations, domestic violence, abuse, revenge, impulse control, unemployment and all the factors feeding criminal behaviour.

But to successfully accomplish this will take administrators and decision makers who are willing to challenge the status quo, while getting out of the comfort zone of traditions, regular routines and eight to four operations.

That is when we will realize a sustainable drop in the crime rates on the beautiful island gems of the Caribbean thus reclaiming the names of the once coveted peaceful islands of the Caribbean we were all known to be.

If you are really serious about crime reduction strategies and programs for your homeland, visit us at or email us at You won’t regret it!
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