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Dominica weekly is a personal weblog about the nature island of Dominica.

In light of three gruesome murders last week, as well an unmistakable increase in violent, drug-related crimes, we in Dominica must be aware of not reaching that tipping point where crime would outstrips the capacity of the police and the lives of law-abiding citizens are change dramatically.

Unfortunately, evidence is emerging that there is a growing culture of violence in Dominica that appears to be directly linked to the illegal drugs trade. No one needs to be told what lies further down this road; the uncontrollable state of crime in certain Caribbean nations is well known. Fortunately for us here in Dominica, there is still time to reverse this growing tend if the government, the police force and all other stakeholders take meaningful action now.

The Dominica Police Force has served the island well, up to this point. I have every reason to believe that the lawmen are well aware that in order to fight against the drugs trade and associated evils worldwide, But in order for us to successfully cut down on the amount of illicit drugs on the island there must be a change in the area of intelligence gathering and surveillance by our policemen.

It is extremely encouraging to see that Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit is fully aware of the importance of the against the illicit drugs trade and has taken steps to strengthen the police force with experienced law enforcement professional form the Diaspora.

If these lawmen can resist the drug trade so forceful that it drives up drug dealer’s risks and costs; just maybe these drug dealers will shift their operators to places where it is easier and cheaper for them to do business.

But will this prevent Dominica from reaching the tipping point with regard to violent crime on the island?

Let’s hear your opinion in the comments below.

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Comment by pete
2009-01-31 10:51:34

More gruesome murders and daring criminal moves there will be. Let’s not make mistakes about that!

Whereas it is true that some of the recent murders had a drug connection, the other factors contributing to the crime(s) are more complex. It is likely there were psychological issues leading to the rash decisions taken. In one case, we know that the perpetrator who also took his life and others, did it almost lexactly ike his dad did before him. Do you think that was pure coincidence? It is reported that he had a history of abuse against the victim. What factor did the social upbringing play? Isn’t there a link between the state of the economy and motivation by criminals to commit certain acts? What about law enforcement and their effective ability to serve and protect (equipment, facilities, forencics, training, effective community policing etc)? Do potential witnesses or knowledgable persons feel secure in reporting activities? How about empowerment and education of the youth? Is there a link with the unemployment rate? Is there sufficient redress to deal with troubled teens who could one day turn ionto brazen criminals? Are the laws on the books sufficient deterrents? How do we deal with high school drop outs and those from broken homes? How about the demand factor for drugs. What about land use? Also it is inevitable that criminals will learn from the world of examples around them.

In my opinion there is a complexity of factors which contribute to what may be an escalating crime rate. There are internal, external factors (eg the demand market for drugs). There are social factors, education, empowerment, enforcement. There are also budding situations (eg neglecting to deal with a teenage trouble maker) that we as a society feel discouraged to deal with or play a deaf ear until it is too late. Some of the solutions are more obvious, but others will take the collective effort of the wider society in concert with the government and the police. We often seek an overnight solution, but the situation needs to be tackled from all angles.

Comment by Suki
2009-01-31 20:25:49

Of course, I do not know the motivation behind the increase in violent crime but I do know that its effect can be devastating for Dominica. I can tell you that what attracted me to Dominica personally was safety as well as its reputation for being one of the last places on Earth where you can observe the earth’s true beauty.

This has been a source of pride and marketing relative to bringing tourists to the island, particularly given that getting to the island is not as easy as visiting some of the other islands in the Caribbean. If the people of Dominica allow drugs to do to Dominica what it has done to other parts of the Caribbean all of your hard work will be lost.

Additional police officers may not be the solution, however. Don’t we need to know why more and more people are taking the drugs? Shouldn’t the focus be on drug use prevention so that the drug dealers don’t have a market? Drugs ruin lives – the life of the user as well as the life of the supplier. Additional policing as a solution just gives up on saving those lives. During my youth there were all these commercials about your brain on drugs, walking away if you were offered drugs, and the legal consequences of drugs. While those commercials did not stop all individuals from doing drugs I can tell you that they had an effect on me. I was surrounded by people doing drugs in college – marijuana, X, cocaine, etc. I was offered drugs more times than I can remember but I always remembered the consequences (legal and physical) and always said no. I would not get into a car with someone who was doing drugs and would have no problem lecturing them so that they eventually would not come around me. Would I have behaved the same way without the commercials? Perhaps but I can still remember the commercial – this is your brain on drugs…any questions? The answer was no, I didn’t have any questions, doing drugs would make my brain sizzle like eggs and I have always valued my brain too much to fry it. What is the symbol today for the youth that clearly outlines the dangers of drugs? I can’t think of any (though I admit that since I don’t have a television it is possible that I am missing something)) – can you?

Comment by pete
2009-02-01 09:45:39

Very good point Suki. I always look forward to your comments. Let me just add this: If we look only at the drugs issue, the public relations to fight drugs in Dominica is really dead, although there is a government anti drug unit and the famous “drug squad”. I am not on island at the moment but from what I hear (and interaction when I visit) there is not much going on along the lines of ads against drugs. The police recently admitted to not doing a great job with their public relations as well. There are two cable tv companies and several newspapers as well as 3-4 radio stations, including the national radio, so there are ample media for sending the message stronger. An idea immediately comes to mind: The daily popular talk shows on the radio stations could be one avenue to effectively send the message and galvanize social support using an already popular platform. In addition, there are several occasions annually (festivals etc) where the message can be made to reach a mass audience, if the planners so choose.

But let’s zoom out a little. Whereas I am sure the drug consumption on the island is increasing, and poising the minds of consumers is of concern, the crime related drug concerns surrounds the partakers of the drugs export trade. In some circumstances Dominica is a trans-shipment point for drugs coming from the south. When you look at the volume of drug seizures, sometimes worth millions of dollars, and often stumbled upon on patrols, the majority of local production is clearly not for local consumption. Therefore a healthy public relations/ad campaign (saying no to drugs) by itself will not make a major dent in the attraction to the trade. In view of the lucrative trade, (and easily paid penalties for those caught) what’s the benefit for the pushers to stop, and what’s the incentive for knowledgeable persons to assist the police? It is speculated that the victim(s) for a recent murder had squealed on the deceased perpetrator (at least he thought so, we may never know).

The Dominican youth are very plugged into multi-media. There are many ways to send the message of “say no to drugs”. The only thing is how seriously will they take it when it is still all around them and so many are unemployed and idle and parental supervision is dropping. But clearly more education can and should be done. Undoubtedly though, for the police to fight drugs effectively, they must be properly equipped as mentioned in my previous comment.

My belief though, is that whereas drugs is a serious problem, so too are the other social and environmental issues that must be addressed simultaneously. We must pay attention to these too. And, though the serious crime rate over the last few months seem to be relatively high, over the last few years the rate of fatalities for example have been less than or about 1 per month. This is relatively low on a per capita basis. We cannot yet conclude that the rate will be significanly higher by the end of this year, though there should still be concern.

For criminals, there are so many opportunities creating the right conditions. For example since there has been traditionally a low crime rate, sometimes security/safety conciousness in some places is not what it could be. We know too, that some crime has also been attributed to be influenced or perpetrated by foreigners over the recent past, particularly around festivities. This will likely continue.

However the good news is that overall, the rate is relatively low, overall, but we must continue to be vigilent and seek to focus attention on things that we have more control over, such as education and social interaction/intervention.

Comment by Suki
2009-02-02 10:15:35

I do believe Pete that your thoughts regarding a multi pronged approach is on target. As the saying goes, An idle man is the devil’s bolster. The youth must have something to do and they are often not in position to direct themselves, it is up to the adults. The youth often have a lot of energy that can be harnessed constructively. With regards to Dominica being a point of trade for drugs, this is a problem that must be handled effectively by the police with the assistance of the people. The people themselves, including the youth have to be active participants in keeping the island from falling into the chaos that accompanies drug trafficking. If it is allowed to get out of control, everyone suffers so everyone must be villigant.

Comment by Steve Foerster Subscribed to comments via email
2009-02-11 10:15:03

Economists will tell you that when things that people want are made illegal, all it does is artificially inflate the price — meaning more profit for those who are willing to become illegal suppliers. If we don’t want to see the same sort of violence that’s endemic to larger islands or the American inner city, it’s imperative that we consider a more progressive approach that treats drug abuse as a public health problem, not as a legal problem, and that means decriminalisation.

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