Research showed that violent behavior in adults and youth was due in part to “…innate temperamental attitude.” Situationally, this was fuelled by “…provocation, misunderstanding and precipitated into violence by pent-up anger or sudden rage, resulting in impulsive spontaneous reactions. Thus, it was well known that provocation, even to a reasonable man, produces reactions that may result in fatal consequences. “.Viewed from the concept “…Social Decadence,” this commentary seeks to examine “…official reactions to gun crimes; …Sociological factors influencing crime; …mythical beliefs in harsher punishment; …criminal culture; …prevalence of gun crimes; …resultant human consequences; …impact on the community and society.”It also looks at “…real life occurrences, including Law enforcement operational considerations and the vicious “…Shanty Town Gun Battle.”
Sociologists have argued that for behavioral reform “…Repressive Punishment” was not the solution. This was the argument advanced by French sociologist Emile Durkheim. This argument, in many instances, has been proved right. Like other forms of punishment, “…Penal Servitude” has its intended purposes. However, research showed that harsher punishment” has no positive effect on individuals who were seen to have been persistently and/or repetitively displaying criminal behavior. Analyzing Durkheim’s argument on punishment, Robert Alun Jones describes it as “…Passionate reaction of graduated intensity that society exercises through the medium of body (Court), acting upon those of its members who have violated certain rules of conduct “[Division of Labor: 1893]. The author also noted the French sociologist as arguing that “…Repressive sanctions would itself be unintelligible” [Emile Durkheim: 1888-1917].
The frequent use of guns in committing violent criminal acts against defenceless citizens has raised serious concerns over citizens “…safety and security.” Consequently, many citizens are left “…terror-stricken and under criminal siege.” This has prompted calls for the imposition of harsher punishment for those convicted of criminal acts involving the use of guns. In a recent discussion with Talk Radio host Dave ‘Beef’ Joseph, the expressed concerns of Service station operator George ‘Charlie’ Barnes were over those involving the “ …use of guns by young criminals” [August 29, 2013]. The businessman, like many victims, appeared “…mortally fearful for his life and physical safety.” There are various classifications of crimes, including, but not limited to offences (i) …Against the person; and (ii) …property.” These appeared to have been the most prevalent offences in recent times and the ones Law enforcement appeared to be at their wits end in controlling.
REACTIONS TO CRIME
Despite empirical evidence that individuals continue to perpetrate various criminal acts, there appears to be a mindset in public officials across the globe that the solution to crime was in the imposition of “…Harsher Punishments.” Even that which currently obtained in many regional States, seemed to speak to the sociologist’s view of “…unintelligibility.” The repressiveness and futility may have been recently confirmed in India. Hence, while policy-makers were seen as reacting to violent crimes, repeatedly expressing contemplation of, and in actuality legislated harsher penalties, increasing incidence of gun crimes continues to “…snuff out innocent lives and/or leaving victims physically maimed.” Critics have, therefore, likened such reactive measures to the “…BOP Insecticidal Spray” which showed that as fast as a mosquito was sprayed and killed, it was time to buy another tin to kill many others. In other words for every serious crime that had been perpetrated, the reaction has been the same- expression or enactment of “…Harsher Penalties.” Adding insult to injury, like some mosquitoes, those the punishments are intended are never caught to be penalized. Many, therefore, have reacted to “…feelings of passion and public sentimentality” of effects and responses as opposed to examining “…CAUSES” and seeking appropriate “…SOLUTIONS.”
Law enforcement administrators, in their management training, have been sensitized by the experts as to certain “…environmental conditions and sociological factors” that influences criminal behavior. Thus, in families and communities (internally/externally), where these exist, they have produced monumental challenges and social problems. The Sociologist’s have identified, inter alia, “…Poverty” as the most devastating. Arising from this condition were said to be “…breakdown in the family structure; …chronic neglect; …breaching family rules and/or societal values; …lack of parental guidance and/or control; …illiteracy and/or inaccessibility to education; … lack of employment opportunities with attendant factors affecting employability; …inadequacy in housing and lack of amenities and inaccessibility to healthcare services.” These situations, therefore, were identified as critical factors influencing anti-social and other behaviors- “…absconsion from home; …truancy; …juvenile delinquency; …prostitution; …teen pregnancy; …peer pressure drug experimentation and ultimately, criminal behavior.” Sadly, these are the factors public officials appeared to have repeatedly ignored to the detriment of society, while focusing on “…Harsher Punishments.”
Court and Prison officials have confirmed that among the prison population [ANU] “…85%” were youth who came from depressed communities and indigent families. Most were between the ages “…17 and 35.” Many were fascinated by guns and were incarcerated for gun crimes. Affected by these conditions, they became restless, developed an attitude of “…senselessness, fearlessness and recklessness.” To the unruly and misguided, these conditions and/or environments are conducive only to two things-“…Crime and Violence.” From existing Laws “…minimum and maximum penalties” have shown no significant deterrent effect on criminals, who continue to perpetrate acts of violence against hapless citizens. Besides members of the Legislature were neither “…Judges of Facts nor Law.” Thus, no judicial powers reside with their offices. Further, the Executive has no imposing powers over Judges in dictating and/or determining the severity of punishments for convicted criminal. Even in Civil proceedings, Legislators have no power in determining what quantum in compensatory damages or costs to be ordered against defendants and/or for aggrieved litigants. These are left to the judicial discretion of Trial Judges.
Seemingly across the globe, “…harsher punishment” has occupied both the attention of policy-makers and frightened members of society. For instance, in the Indian “… 5-Man Gang Rape of a 23 year-old female student, the savagery of which, has resulted in death [BBC India: Dec. 18, 2012], five accused rapists were arrested, charged and remanded to prison [Telegraph August 27, 2013]. Thus, when members of civil society speak to “…Crime and Punishment,” they are in fact speaking to that which in Law has declared “…acts of criminality with attendant punitive sanctions.” More fundamentally, they are speaking to “…punishments proportionate to the nature and gravity of particular crimes.” For the crime of murder, there is the ever contentious issue of the “…imposition of the Death Penalty.” Such punishment was to be imposed upon those found guilty through the judicial processes. However, Privy Council rulings in the “…Earl Pratt and Ivan Morgan Case,” makes it difficult for this penalty to be executed [Jamaica 1993].
For all intents and purposes, there were high expectations that the swift Law enforcement actions will have brought respite to timid, traumatized victims and by extension, the Indian citizens. Outraged over the incident, the population led several mass demonstrations. Reacting to public outrage, “…Indian authorities hastily toughened laws on sexual assaults.” Though these courses of action may have brought temporary relief, there was no respite. The obvious “…False Sense of Expectations” had manifested itself, when several months later, “…five other accused rapists, allegedly perpetrated a most vicious sexual attack on a defenceless victim-ironically, “…a female Police officer on August 22, 2013” [Bloomberg .com: August 26, 2013]. The brazen sexual attack clearly showed that other “…rapists were not deterred and had no fear of prosecutorial and/or punitive consequences.”
There were schools of thought that the imposition of “…Harsher Punishment” on perpetrators of serious crimes, may result in the reduction of criminal activities. From such schools, only “…Wishful Thinkers” appeared to have entertained such thoughts, that clearly, may have been conjured up in the mind. Those who understood that which seemed to be the “…influential factors of crime,” and those who enforced the Criminal Law, may quickly submit that such thought is “…Mythical” and such effect is “…Illusory.” Jurisdictions apart, the worrying spate of “…gun crimes within this jurisdiction [ANU],” and recent incidents of rape of two females in Mumbai, India, speak to a “…Harsher Punishment Syndrome.” By that view, Law enforcement administrators may have concluded that the “…Contemplatory Initiative” may have been ineffective as it was finding it difficult in arresting the situation.
Respecting declaration of “…War on Crime,” winning is achievable only by avoiding the repetitive rhetoric, tough talking and catchy phrases and expressions, such as “…War on crime; …Zero tolerance; …Dealt with full force of Law; …War on drugs; …War on terrorism; …War on prostitution, even war on poverty and hunger.” Indeed, war may be spoken of, even mongers may engage in “…psychological warfare.” However, wars can never be won by mere talking. Thus, this necessitate strategic and careful planning; …all logistics, standard operations procedures in place; …troops highly trained and psyched up; and according to Prime Minister Honourable Dr. Baldwin Spencer, “ …at the right psychological moment,” with an element of surprise, “ …declared” and gallantly fought. While citizens may have been led into a “…false sense of security, belief and hope,” they MUST have seen or heard enough to be convinced that with this “…War Talking” and the frequent gun attacks on citizens,” their fears, pain and sorrow, are far from over.
JAMAICA GUN LAW- ALL FOOLS DAY
Interestingly, while policy-makers focus on legislating “ …Harsher Punishment” every time a citizen fell to Gun violence, the fundamental sociological factors influencing crime, were being overlooked. If lessons were to be learned, then it shall be taken from the Jamaican experience. Faced with the rampancy of “…Gun Violence,” primarily influenced by “…politics and gangsterism,” Prime Minister Michael Manley, a “…Wishful Thinker,” was forced to show that he had more than “…testicular fortitude.” He had to show that his administration had the “…political will” in bringing respite to the Jamaican people. Hence, his administration enacted the “…ultra-repressive, contentious and controversial Gun Court Act.” Seemingly for strange reasons, it became enforceable on “…All Fools Day- April 1, 1974.” This appeared to have reflected the Legislators “…repressive mentality, stupidity and insensitivity,” as well him that gave final Assent. Since gun crimes continued to spike, they had ‘ALL’ clearly FOOLED themselves.
OPTIMISM AND ARROGANCE
Research revealed that in addressing the nation on gun violence, the Jamaican Prime Minister submitted that “…It will be a long war; …No country can win a war against crime overnight.” He was explaining contemplatory legislation for the control of gun and curtailment of gun crimes. Evidently, he was conscious that the task of controlling guns, gunmen and gun violence was an uphill battle. He may have unwittingly uttered with “…Optimism and Arrogance that” “…By the time we have finished with them, Jamaica gunmen will be sorry they ever heard of a thing called a gun” [Wikipedia: NCJRS: Gun Violence: W. Calathes: 1992]. The enacted repressive Gun Court Act provided for, inter alia, “…Detention without bail; …trial without Jury in camera; …mandatory indeterminate sentence; …empowerment of an inferior Court (Magistrate) to be the sole judge of “…facts and law,” irrespective of gravity, nature and/or seriousness of offence, compounded by “…lengthy delays in hearing.” Thus, a Magistrate was to be “…Judge, Jury and Executioner.” Today, it would seem that it is the Jamaican people who are sorry that Prime Minister Manley had made those arrogant remarks.
FAILED JUDICIAL SYSTEM
Clearly breaching fundamental rights of the individual as enshrined in the Jamaican Constitution Order and the prevailing right of innocence, after several years on remand for gun crimes ranging from “…Unlawful possession of Firearms and ammunition; …Shooting with Intent, to Murder,” with apparent “…collusive, convenient and/or calculated failure of the Jamaican Judicial system, several accused awaiting trial, sought and obtained Judicial review from the London Privy Council. In the case of “…empowerment of a single Magistrate to hear and determine the cases and fate” of accused persons, the Privy Council ruled, “ …The Act improperly encroached on the jurisdiction reserved for the Superior Court and that it was unconstitutional” [Hinds Et al v The Queen: 1980].
PRIVY COUNCIL RULINGS
In the case of “…Delayed and Denial of Jury Trial,” it ruled that there shall be “…Speedy Trial” for all remanded prisoners”. The rulings also provoked legislative actions, resulting in the “…Gun Court Amendment Act- 1983,” providing for Magistrates to “…grant pre-trial bail” [Herbert Bell v DPP: 1983]. The passionate, repressive enactment which had not reduced gun violence in Jamaica survived from “…1994-1982” when its unconstitutionality was successfully challenged. This may have been evidenced by daily media reports of gun crimes in Jamaica and seen through the “…deadly Tivoli Gardens experience” with extradited, US convicted and incarcerated gunrunner, Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke” [May 25, 2010].
Until the proliferation of guns in regional jurisdictions, not very long ago, Guyanese citizens were faced with a “…Criminal Culture of Choke and Rob.” In the surprise criminal attack, victims would be pounced upon, choked and robbed of anything valuable-including the victim’s life; …In Jamaica, in an era described as the “ …Rude boy phenomenon,” it was “…Rob and Flee.” In this era victims would be relieved of their property and robbers fled from the scene. Even in the song in which Jamaican reggae artist Prince Buster, “…Judge Dread or Judge 100 years” , featured the Court room drama with “…miscreant rude boys,” the Judge showed that he was even ruder than their hairstyle. Incidentally, one of the defendants/rude boys was named-“…Rob and Flee.” …In Trinidad and Tobago, it is “…Kidnap; …demand ransom and kill.” Within this jurisdiction (Antigua and Barbuda), criminals have taken their activities to a dangerous level-“…Shoot and Rob,” and when victims offered resistance or adversaries offered threats “…Shoot and Stab.”
CYCLE OF VIOLENCE
Evidence suggests that many restless and misguided youth have been caught up in a vicious “…Cycle of Violence; …drugs; …street gangs; …delinquent and criminal behavior. Most frightening to citizens, however, are the “…dangers posed by the unpredictable nature of man and a predisposition in inflicting serious violence upon his fellowmen, with or without weapons. Many youth have been accused of perpetrating many criminal acts within the society. Such behaviors have also been seen as posing threats to “…societal peace and tranquility and most importantly, public order and public safety.” These situations have brought upon society, the inevitable scourge of “…Crime.” This was what Sociologists Henry Mayhew and Emile Durkheim had posited that “…Crime is an inevitable aspect of society” [Wikipedia: 1893]. Today, this is seen in every civil society.
FOR WHOM THE BELL MAY TOLL
Though many of the region’s youth have attained the age of majority-18 years, many appeared to have lacked a “…positive sense of maturity; …purpose, direction and responsibility. Additionally, many lacking socialization skills have either resorted to “…anti-social or violent criminal behaviors.” These were to be borne out from clearly developed violent patterns of behavior, evidenced by clearly defined “…Modus Operandi of “…Revenge shooting; and …Robbing; …Wounding; …Maiming; and …Killing” innocent members of society. These youth were said to be those with “…Criminal Propensities” with recurring difficulties that Law enforcement and/or reformists appeared not to have been able to curtail and/or arrest. The “…revenge attack and gunplay,” such as the“…Carnival Tuesday Night Gunfight” that ended bloodily [August 6, 2013], speak to a changing “…Criminal Culture in regional societies.” While Law enforcement seemed to be pondering over solutions, citizens, perplexed and jitterly, are wondering “…For whom the next bell may toll.”
SANCTITY OF LIFE
There is no doubt that crime has pervaded every strata of society. Evidence, showed that the criminal elements have been prevailing in their deadly exploits. They have shown “…brazenness, adeptness, impunity, invincibility and elusive skills, that seemed to have been kept out of the reach of Law enforcement. The criminal acts not only speak to sophisticated way they were being executed, but also showed “…calculated recklessness and disregard for the “…Sanctity of Life and the Rule of Law.” These situations and public safety and protection, raised the fundamental question “…How effective is Law enforcement in controlling crime and/or managing major incidents?” This may have been answered when Police spokesman Corporal Frankie Thomas announced an unprecedented “…scale down on activities for Police Week September 2013, due to criminal activities” [Caribarena: August 27, 2013]. Such public information had stirred emotions, impelling law abiding citizens and critics in describing the announcement as “…administrative and operational ineffectiveness.”
RAMPANCY OF GUN CRIMES-CONSEQUENCES
Notwithstanding the ill-advised announcement, such revelations, indeed, reflected the Gospel Truth- “…professional impotence and the deadly consequences of guns.” While demonstrating tactlessness, evidence has shown a frightening escalation and “…Rampancy in Gun Crimes.” The dangerous situation and existing terror have caused citizens’ hearts second failures- foremost, the coming of Jesus Christ [Luke 21: 26]. Thus, evidence of such rampancy may also be seen from the recent gunning down of “…Tavern proprietor Melvin James; …store employee Susan Powell 39; …Pizza proprietor Omar Ghazalla 28; …Sylvester ‘Copper’ Carbon 41 and …backhoe operator Edwin Williams Jr 29. The victims were all killed instantly at the hands of merciless gunmen. Businessman Zephaniah ‘Zephy’ Joseph 75, appeared to have succumbed to “…gunshot injuries sustained on August 11, 2013.”
From Law enforcement experience and practice, the arrest of Maximilian Roberts 23, suggested that the “…Cause of Death was associated with the gunshot injuries sustained in the deadly attack that instantly snuffed out the life of Edwin Williams Jr. The pain, grief and sorrow still exist, hence, there has never been, and there will never be comfort in any such arrest. Of academic interest, in murder death has to be “…injury-related and/or precipitated by it.” Thus, it matters not how long after the injuries were sustained. However, to constitute murder, death must occur within “…a year and a day-366 days” [Law Enforcement]. There were still other vicious gun attacks on “…businessman Laban ’Gravy’ Benjamin 63; …Bank employee Carol Johnson 55; …Ice cream parlor operator Keeva Baltimore 35, with a bullet that reportedly pierced her lung and the brutal fatal stabbing of Rosemarie Lynch 48” [Caribarena: July 20, 2013]. Adding to the gun violence statistics, there was the shooting of Judith Wynter 62 that had resulted in paralysis, with a bullet reportedly lodged in the spine, to be left in a state of paraplegia.
For many years and seasons, during the carnival celebrations, an area at the East Bus Station has been designated specifically to accommodate “…Food and Beverage vendors.” This was one of the founding constitutional principles that speak to “…respect for the principles of social justice; …that the operation of the economic system shall serve the common good” [Principle (b): CO. 1981]. Each was entitled to engage in some legitimate form of livelihood. It was given the name “…Shanty Town,” reflecting or depicting squalid conditions existing in peripheral communities outside many global city centers. Most were lacking proper infrastructure and amenities. Thus, the name “ …Shanty Town” may have been chosen due to the temporary make-shift, clustered structures of wood with walls and roofs covered with corrugated sheets or tarpaulin. In spite of its deficiencies, Health officials ensured the maintenance of minimum basic standards of sanitation and food safety.
BRAVE AND IGNORANT
Shanty Town was offering a-twenty four hour service-everything “…foods, drinks and entertainment.” Catering to certain activities, including games of chance, “…Shanty” was sometimes called “…Las Vegas.” There was “…loud and sometimes music with offensive and/or inciting lyrics. It was a place of“…High-Risk,” even for those who engaged in “…Risky Business.” There were “…dens for dancing; …gambling; …drug peddling and conspicuous open-view smoking of prohibited vegetable substances of cannabis and crack cocaine.” It was known to have attracted certain people, among whom were the“…good, bad, ugly, indifferent and the evil.” These included “…the curious, innocent fun-loving tourists.” Those with a consciousness for safety avoided the activities, noise and confusion. Thus, only the “…Brave and Ignorant” visited “…Shanty” at nights.
DARKNESS AT SHANTY
Those who needed a comfortable place to sit would “…hang out by the more well-designed, permanently-structured, more appealing ambience, the nationally known open Bar/Fast Foods catering, called “…Obsti’s,” (named after renowned social commentator Paul Richards, King Obstinate). During the festivities, these were changed, due mainly to the openness, clustered environs and unrestricted convergence of the public on Obsti’s. Some patrons preferred its setting and existing festive atmosphere, than that obtained at “…Shanty.” Known to nationals and Law enforcement as a “…hot spot and a very dangerous place,” particularly under the cover of darkness, it was not a place for the “…lily-livered.” Reputed characters with concealed offensive or dangerous weapons (knives/guns)” were known to have frequented the “…Make-shift Town,” where without warning “…gunslingers, knife-wielders or missile throwers,” could have patrons abandoning “…friends, foods, beverages or choice activities, scampering to safety. Anyone emerging from occasional skirmishes without bodily scratches might be considered lucky. Thus, this necessitated operational considerations.
Anticipated eventualities always necessitated special deployment at “…Shanty.” Such was for the expressed purposes of “…eliminating potential threats and danger to patrons, maintaining order and ensuring public safety. These personnel were to perform their duties professionally and to act firmly and decisively, as situations demand or as circumstances dictate: – “…intermittent random search and seizing a brazen smoker.” Consequently, past experiences of the gun-slinging, knife-wielding “…Bailey Brothers,” , saw the “…deployment of visibly and heavily armed contingent of Police personnel,” headed by intrepid and proficient Inspectors Leonard Cabral, Desmond Dinard and other combative and equally highly (RSS) trained subordinate ranks.
SHANTY TOWN GUN BATTLE
Many spectators to the final day of the carnival celebrations may have been treated to a spectacle from the colorful costumes as revelers paraded through the streets of St. John’s. As darkness fell upon the nation and the celebrations were reaching its crescendo, three trigger-happy, reckless youth, Shelton Hunte 26, Trevon Francis 22 and Adrian ‘Yardie’ Shand 22,” had engaged each other in a vicious “ …Gun Battle.” It was not clear what may have precipitated the gun feud that lasted only for about two minutes. However, when it was over, three people, including two gunmen had sustained gunshot injuries. A bullet shot with “…malice” and intended for one of the gunmen, was transferred to the body of an innocent victim, Judith Wynter. She was left stricken in a “…paraplegic condition,” the result of spinal injuries. [News Pages: August 16, 2013].
Despite the isolated area at “…Shanty Town,” with Sir Trevor Thomas, Chief of Defence Staff of the Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force, providing “…Military Aid to Civil Power,” seemingly “…fearing an escalation of gun violence or demonstrating “…operational inability in managing the isolated incident,” Law enforcement brought the carnival revelry a pre-mature end, to the chagrin of Culture Minister Elliston “…Namba’ Adams, and disappointment of costume builders, bandleaders, revelers, vendors and onlookers. More recently, on Thursday night, Warren Miller a 50 year-old Pares Village farmer, reportedly sustained gunshot injuries to the right side of his face. This was reportedly inflicted by unidentified gunmen [August 29, 2013].
TIME FOR EVERYTHING
It is undeniably true, that “…mixing business with pleasure” had often resulted in avoidable conflicts and/or problems. It is also true that mixing pleasure with violence could either be “…serious or deadly.” Conversely, it is also true that there was “…a place and time for everything under the sun.” Hence, there was a time for peace, equally as much as there was a time to declare war. Having regard to the “…unabated robberies, shootings and murders,” there was no doubt that many citizens have been gripped by fear, over the frequency with which criminals have been unleashing deadly violence on members of society. Many members have been virtually placed under siege. Consequent upon that which has been seen as “…terror, resulting in misery, anguish and despair” in the lives of law abiding citizens, it would seem that the time has come for the national Law enforcement agency to show its effectiveness in bringing peace, respite and a deep sense of security to terrified, hapless and defenceless citizens.”
Despite Law enforcement investigative efforts, the “…Elusive Gunmen” have given every citizen reasons to be fearful for their personal safety, protection and security. The criminals have shown, without a shadow of doubt that their rule has been with “…Smoking Guns- dominating citizens; …business places; …Streets and communities.” Additionally, they have shown total control of both the “…Day and Night,” the latter of which Gender Affairs Minister Dr. Jacqui Quinn-Leandro had attempted to take back from the rapists. The citizenry, gripped by fear, were forced to ask “ …Should there be further rhetorical expressions of “…Zero tolerance and calls for harsher penalties, while women-folk continue to be viciously raped and defenceless citizens were either brutally stabbed or mercilessly and senselessly gunned down?”