In the Caribbean we are a small region in which our history has been shaped by similar foundation that was enforced by European design, through slavery and indentured labour. Looking at post-colonial times you can see how very little separates our backgrounds from island to island within the West Indies. Self-governance through independence and some nations becoming Republics has allowed us to decide how best to accommodate members of our region as best as possible. The overview of the Caribbean while our contributions has been as significant to the progress of the wider world we are categorized as a region of third-world nations. As stagnant as that may seem, we are always on the world stage throughout history for our culture and globalization through many sectors based on our exploits of specific interests. Then why are we now also being recognized for the state of crime and particularly gun violence? In this series of articles, we will attempt to evaluate, diagnose and explore solutions to curb gun violence amongst men within the region.
Do we look at the mentality of modern men presently residing within the Caribbean or is this an issue which has been glooming over our heads for some time and has now arrived at an undisguisable problem that we can no longer remain unaffected? The global statistics show many nations within the region boasting some of the highest crime rates in the world. There are 3 countries on the world listing top 10 highest crime rates which are Caribbean nations, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Jamaica. It is from these nations we will explore the issues of crime and gun violence amongst men; bearing in mind the problem of gun violence is not isolated to these nations only but it is notable in all Caribbean nations. As mentioned earlier, there is not much that separates our cultures from island to island therefore why would the culture of gun violence be much different in debunking (Crime rate by Country 2022).
In Trinidad and Tobago which was once a pillar of the energy sector regionally and globally with a robust oil and natural gas industry, the country has experienced the horrendous impact of crime in both high and low economic periods. We can say lack of financial liquidity and an influx of excess wealth seems to be an ineffective variable on evaluating the state of crime in the country. Trinidad and Tobago has a population of 1.4 million people as of 2022 and has a murder toll which has ranged from 400-500 victims per year from 2014-2021 with 2019 having seen a murder toll of 536 lives (Romero 2022). This is interesting because where do we go from here despite having the infrastructure of all the faculties to combat all types of crime; organized crime, gang violence, kidnappings, gun violence, political racketeering and human trafficking are all now a regular part of our social and cultural way of life. Many islands have been infected with this model, an ever-increasing scale but what in fact is the source? (Katz and Edwards)
Not to spotlight on any island I am trying to be as impartial as can be and we are arriving at a common factor in the social strata that leads to understanding violence and guns amongst men in the Caribbean. Let’s discuss Jamaica and see what we can dissect.
The consequence of crime and increases in violence throughout the Caribbean has become something that many have just learned to cope an adjust their daily lifestyle to be as safe as possible. However, this still leaves room for crimes of opportunity and collateral lives lost when victims become causalities of the environment they live. Looking at Jamaica which is a beautiful island in the Greater Antilles of the West Indies with a population of 2.9 million and an unfortunate murder toll of 1000-1500 recorded between 2011-2021(Romero 2022). Existing literature suggests that in Jamaica, being one of the larger territories in the region and having larger data samples; crime and violence in the Caribbean was mainly attributed to gang life, drug trafficking, murder-suicide/homicide of West Indian Immigrants adapting to American culture and money laundering through the region as an economic hub. Also, deportation of criminal and non-criminal immigrants contributed to rising criminal activity in their home nations from United States of America, United Kingdom and Canada (Morris-Francis, Gibson, Grant 2022).
Men within the Caribbean region seem to fall susceptible to the appeal of a life of crime but the ‘blow-back’ often tends to fall onto the innocents of society who may reside within concentrated crime ridden areas. But does the impact and free reign access to crime, lack of effective law enforcement training, inability to create strategic outlets to shift male psychology in Caribbean society; whom lose their lives’ to crime suggest the ignorance of a call to dramatic action and incompetence of governance of respective democratic Caribbean nations? I believe the vested interest in improving quality of life and retention of higher male mortality should be a priority to Governing parties. The numbers of men who lose their lives to gun violence in the Caribbean are astounding. The West Indies upon evaluation by multinational criminal investigative organizations is a geographic location of interest where drug, human and gun trafficking can trickle through to the larger international criminal organizations globally. This in fact also is a hinderance to our growth as a region but more so the impact that loss of lives has on families. It presents trauma into members of the family who may find it difficult to recover also, you can look at the loss of guidance of young men trying to find themselves in society with the absence of a male figure whether it be father, brother or an uncle. Violence and Guns in the Caribbean affect the men of the region who fall to a false sense of glamor behind the lifestyle. (as well as those who are trying). Crime is an enterprise project and one must ask themselves’ why would those who have the power and capacity to decrease it, allow this activity to thrive within our Caribbean nations.
Crime rate by Country 2022. Accessed September 26, 2022. https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/crime-rate-by-country.
Katz, Charles M, and Edward R Maguire. “6 Diagnosing Gang Violence in the Caribbean – Researchgate.” Accessed September 26, 2022. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Charles-Katz/publication/282980701_Diagnosing_Gang_Violence_in_the_Caribbean/links/5625703e08aeedae57daea9a/Diagnosing-Gang-Violence-in-the-Caribbean.pdf.
Morris-Francis, Sherill V, Camille A Gibson, and Lorna E Grant. “Crime and Violence in the Caribbean.” Google Books. Google. Accessed September 26, 2022. https://books.google.tt/books?hl=en&lr=&id=Yol-DwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=gun%2Bviolence%2Bin%2Bthe%2Bcaribbean&ots=2D5hTXjQNK&sig=RHcaBJtaKlEoxaO6pD1wHxguHu4&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=gun%20violence%20in%20the%20caribbean&f=fals.
Romero, Teresa and Aug 1. “Number of Murders in Trinidad & Tobago 2021.” Statista, August 1, 2022. https://www.statista.com/statistics/312513/number-of-homicides-in-trinidad-and-tobago/.
Romero, Teresa and May 20. “Number of Murders in Jamaica 2021.” Statista, May 20, 2022. https://www.statista.com/statistics/312483/number-of-homicides-in-jamaica/.
* Read part 2 of this 3 part series, The Culture of Men, Violence and Guns: from a Caribbean Perspective , featured in GEEMS Magazine Issue 7