With the rising cost of living threatening to worsen the country’s crime situation, one criminologist believes using a public health model is the right approach to tackle the problem.
On July 2, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced he was giving consideration to declaring crime a public health emergency. On Monday, he officially made the declaration, saying plans were already in motion.
Since his statement, many have been seeking clarity on what Dr Rowley meant.
However, according to Dr Randy Seepersad, the concept is not new to the Caribbean.
“USAID has put out a call to do an intervention, exactly based on the public health model in four Caribbean countries and USAID has actually put 30 million US dollars on the table, and they actually did an intervention similar not too long ago. In fact, that intervention finished in 2020, in three other Caribbean countries, and they spend millions and millions of dollars. So, entities like USAID, the Inter-American Development Bank, et cetera, they give money to governments, and I’m not talking lending money, I’m talking giving money,” Dr Seepersad said.
The model has been used in Jamaica, Guyana, St Kitts/Nevis and St Lucia. Dr Seepersad noted that USAID plans to utilise this approach in Guyana, Grenada, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines over the next five years.
At a press conference on Monday, Dr Rowley was asked whether the Government will seek international funding for this initiative, to which he responded by saying it was a possible avenue.
Dr Seepersad said yesterday that the public health model ties in with a research piece recently completed by his team. The findings were submitted to the Ministry of National Security last week.
“What that particular report actually does, is it gives a very detailed analysis of the country, things like the drivers and the crime situation and the experiences of people in the country. So, you know for a whole range of crime where the problem is more acute; you know what people’s experiences are; you know what some of the drivers are; you know when you look at other things like confidence in the police, confidence in the courts, confidence in the regiment, et cetera,” he explained.
Since the year 2000, Dr Seepersad said crime has been persistently increasing and should signal to those in power that its current strategy is not working.
Describing the current strategy as “reactive”, he said, “There are factors that are underlying and causing the crime. Things like the criminal justice system only rarely come into play after the crime has happened”.
He warned that crime could worsen if the price of goods and services continues to climb.
Asked whether more youths are engaging in criminal gang-related activities, he said, “Official crime data from the TTPS is that youths are actually engaged in a very small proportion - close to 1.5 per cent of all violent crimes - and that figure has remained consistent over the last 10 years”.
He indicated, however, that school violence has been slightly increasing.