There is a level of worry across the local business community following a number of shooting incidents yesterday as the annual Crop Over festival came to a close with the staging of Grand Kadooment Day.
One man was killed and at least 20 other people — including a six-year-old boy — were injured during a shooting episode on Spring Garden Highway which came on the heels of a video threat issued against the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) on social media late last month.
Since the start of the year there have been 21 murders — the majority of which have involved the use of guns, heightening fears among residents and members of the business community.
In fact, President of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) Eddy Abed today described the level of crime on the island as “extremely worrisome”, while warning that it did not augur well for business.
Abed also suggested that members of the corporate community should play a greater role in helping to deter criminals by installing closed circuit television on their premises and by employing more security guards. He also called for increased lighting in public areas.
“It [the rising crime] is extremely worrisome. The Barbados Police Force is doing a good job by and large, but it clearly is at a point now where businesses need to take necessary precautions to protect themselves,” he told Barbados TODAY.
“So we would strongly suggest that people consider putting guards on their premises and putting in CCTV in their premises and more importantly work with the authorities to make sure we could get better lighting, especially in the areas like Bridgetown where one expects a high volume of foot traffic and going later into the evening. This is extremely worrisome. There is no way to soft sell this,” Abed stressed.
The business leader also expressed concern that the crime wave could start impacting negatively on the island’s bread and butter tourism industry.
“As a citizen, as a resident in this country, it concerns me, but even more importantly I understand and recognize that bad news travels very quickly and this information will get out into the international media, and clearly crime and tourism don’t work well together,” said Abed.
Meanwhile, in a Facebook post recorded after the shooting last night, noted economist Jeremy Stephen said he believed the level of violence in the country had a lot to do with the state of the economy.
While stating that he did not really want to comment specifically to the shooting on Spring Garden, Stephen said since last year he has been making the point that “if you have broken down economies you can expect this kind of behaviour.
“My rationale has always been that if there is no money circulating and they can’t trust each other anymore they become individualistic and will do all this crap and that is what you see happening today. All of it might be connected somewhat to something that is economically driven – it could be drugs [or] it could be these guns that have been entering the country,” said Stephen.
Explaining that when people feel stressed and were unable to find jobs they “begin to act out in a way they know best”, the economist predicted that if economic conditions worsened, crime would become more rampant.
“So when you see all this stuff going on, I don’t want to tell you don’t despair because what you see today is not even the tip of the iceberg, it is a continuation of what has been happening since September [last year],” Stephen said, adding that he hoped the upcoming general election, which was constitutionally due by April next year, would be a peaceful one.
He said in light of the “chaotic display” by some of the island’s youth, more people should become positive role models by helping to “point out opportunities” for them.
Not going into detail, the economist said the current situation on the island called for solutions and not complaints, while promising to channel some of his energy into helping to come up with solutions that could help steer the island’s youth along a more positive path.
“It may very well sound as if I am being unrealistic but more than ever now we got to think of solutions because this thing could spiral out of control. I am talking here on a plane and the fellows that shooting up the place probably never even flew out of Barbados before,” he said.
“We need to deal with it. There are people who are incentivizing these youngsters because of lack of opportunities, because the education system is failing. The fact is that these guys are different. We can’t go back to a Barbados of old, a Barbados of old is what it is – old and dead. We need to focus on what a new Barbados will look like and guide things from there,” said Stephen.
Meanwhile, describing the latest shooting incident as regrettable, Executive Director of the Barbados International Business Association (BIBA) Henderson Holmes told Barbados TODAY he believed authorities needed to move swiftly in addressing the issue of gangs and guns on the island.
“This is not a typical characteristic of the Barbadian society,” Holmes said.
“It is confined to a particular set. There is no random shooting in Barbados. There might be some innocent bystanders that might get injured in the process, but this is related to a particular subculture that
we need to address if we are going to address the gun violence. We address that if we want to address the gun violence,” Holmes said.