The nation’s crime situation did not arrive like a thief in the night. It has affected communities with “hot spots” and families that lost loved ones as victims. Even criminals have families many of whom are not involved in criminal activity and may not be aware of their errant family members' activities. And overwhelming fear has begun to affect the national psyche as violent gun crime continues to grow without a systematic problem-solving approach.
What are the root causes or explanations that would lead some to a life of crime? Can sociology bring some understanding facilitating a more informed approach to addressing the contributing factors? If the contributing factors can be identified and addressed, then perhaps we can reduce the number of criminal recruits. More importantly, how do we turn those currently involved in the criminal underworld away from crime?
Which came first, hotspots, government contracts or fighting for turf? Do these labels represent a deep understanding of the contexts? Do we have studies on the new multi-story housing developments built by the Government since independence? What is the economic situation of those living in these developments, and are there articulated programmes to aid the adjustment to community living? Are the programmes working? What impact has the move to these developments had on community and family life? Are there studies of squatting communities which exist all over Trinidad? Is the situation different in Tobago?
We know of warring gangs around Rose Hill RC. Did the gang members grow up in the community? Are they from other communities or islands? Are they first or second-generation? What schools did they attend? What context generated this phenomenon? These are valuable insights that must be obtained if one is to understand the dimensions of the problem and the nature of the interventions to address same. Only insiders can provide this information and in the information age, this is the type of data that must be collected, collated, analysed and used to inform any kind of intervention, community policing or otherwise.
Some have simply taken the position that miscreants should be eradicated by the police whenever the opportunity arises. This is a bad idea. Any armed service that sees its role as an exterminator may also fail to distinguish between targets. Communities are not black boxes, and the bad boys did not fall from the sky. We need to deconstruct their gestation and find their breeding grounds. If the UWI sociology department is to be of any relevance to addressing national problems, these are the questions that it needs to address.
Selwyn Ryan’s “No time to quit" had important insights. Were these insights ever addressed at a policy level? Are secondary school-leavers in danger since they need money, and the gangs need them? But we need a deep understanding of the family, community, and gang dynamics in each context to allow the health institutions, the social work institutions, the police, the business community to find ways to intervene. Broad brush labels and social programmes cannot lead to sustainable results unless they are informed by analysis. Who is doing the sociological analysis, and how is the analysis informing government policy?