Notes From a Native Son: Desperate Youths are Resorting to Shoot-outs as they Battle to Survive

Hal Austin

Hal Austin

Barbados is becoming like a war zone, with reports of shootings almost everyday by reckless and underemployed young men (they are almost always men). It is now taking on the characteristics of West Kingston in the mid-1970s when a surplus of arms fuelled the resentment of gangsters affiliated to the two dominant political parties. This aspect of Caribbean shootings has not yet raised its ugly head in Barbados, nor has the savagery of the murderous gangsters in Trinidad, although the choke and rob muggers of Guyana has been adopted by some Barbadian youths. In all this, the apparatus of law and order seems helpless, apart from a demand to better arm the policy and the unopposed willingness to put the Defence force on the streets and parading some of the West Coast beaches. It is a development that will eventually end in tears.

Crime and punishment is one of those subjects that have been raising people’s blood pressure since Adam and Eve. From the church to every man and woman at the street corner, we all have explanations for the break down in law and order. Those opposed to the drift in to a more repressive society (see: Stuart Hall: Drifting in to a Law and Order Society) are frequently forced to ask: whose law, what order. However, crime causation is the issue that pre-occupies most criminologists and criminal justice workers.

Why do some people, brought up under similar social and cultural circumstances, go on to commit serious (or even minor) offences, while their brothers, sisters and peers, brought up under similar circumstances, do not? It is easy to look for an answer in the individual’s unique circumstances; his/her psychology, physical make-up, DNA. Experts have given many explanations, from evil to alcohol, greed, poverty, social upbringing, education, and, recently, the re-emergence of eugenics.

But all are agreed that crime is a social construct which cannot be explained simply by religious laws or basic social explanations. In some societies, race is an important factor in why some people are suspected, arrested, prosecuted, convicted and imprisoned. In fact, history is dotted with the execution of people – legally and illegally – simply because they were of the wrong ethnicity and in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Gender, Crime Mental illness:
Apart from the low educational scores of the vast majority of prisoners throughout the Western world, another feature is the low number of females who are imprisoned. Some have explained this away by claiming that the chauvinism underlying our society prevents the criminal justice system from even perceiving women as criminals. Others claim that when forced to commit crimes, women usually commit economic offences such as shoplifting, begging or more domestic crimes violence against an abusive spouse. However, that does not explain such historic female characters as Bonnie Parker, of Bonnie and Clyde notoriety, or Myra Hindley, of the Moors murders infamy.

The other fairly common feature of imprisoned people, both men and women, is mental illness. A very high percentage of prisoners are mentally ill, some obviously more so than others. This raises the question: is prison the rightful place for a mentally ill man or women?

There is a popular view that offenders who commit certain types of crime should not be eligible for parole or early release since most of them do not show any remorse. As usual, the reason why is never defined, apart from a general assumption that these crimes (often some types of violent and sexual offences) are so bad that the perpetrator has lost all right to be called human. The offender is more often than not a male. Such extreme punishments often border on the so-called biological, t hat the persona has suffered some illness, or his neurological system is such that he was incapable of self-control.

Community Policing:
The way to confront growing street violence is not by arming the police, or travelling round in armoured vehicles, or by forming silly specialist squads with muscle-bound young men and angry women. Rather, it is by putting officers back in uniforms and getting them to walk the streets of Barbados, talking to people, knowing the people on their beat, tracking the villains and, when they step out of line, bringing them to justice. It is by not allowing anyone, no matter how wealthy, to be beyond the law; if the rich and famous do not obey the law, no matter where they live, bulldoze their doors and pull them out; if they refuse to come out peacefully, then surround their homes and blast them out. The American-influenced militarisation of civilian policing is based on a number of flawed premises and half-truths: that drug gangsterism is growing, that terrorism is a global threat, that ordinary criminals are resorting to arms in the execution of their criminal activity.

Analysis and Conclusion:
Whatever the criminological explanation, the brute reality is that Barbados has taken on all the features of the Wild West, with even teenagers reportedly having access to guns and ammunition. What is remarkable about this anarchy, is that the response of the law and order brigade is to give the police even more arms and to militarise policing by drafting the otherwise redundant and untrained Defence Force on the streets with high-powered weapons providing cover on everything from Crop Over to parading along West Coast beaches, as has been mentioned.

Although other cultures have ready access to guns, Switzerland for example, the readiness to use them to murder or maim appears not to be as common as the US. From the Columbine High School shooting, to Newtown, to everyday police shootings, the US is the home of the gunman. This Americanisation of Caribbean culture is a heavy price to pay for living in the US spheres of influence. In a macho culture, in which the fist and bull whip are no longer the first weapons of choice, it is obvious that for street fighters to maintain their reputations they must resort to more and more deadly weapons. It is an endless pursuit.

It will not be long before the street thugs have access to AK47s, Heckler and Kochs and other weapons more suited to the battle field then to the Edwardian streets of small Barbadian towns and villages, if they are not already there. If the state responds to gun crime by arming the police more heavily, then it becomes a game of poker in which the only loser will be the general public. America is a nation that cannot pull itself back from the brink of self-destruction. Just look at the political power of organisation like the Tea Party, the National Rifle Association, the ordinary guy in the Mid-west and below the Mason-Dixon line. They believe it is a constitutional right and, no matter what, they intend to use it. Even after the school and college shooting, those of senators and presidents, the nation is still unable to pull back. If for no other reason, the US can stand as a model of public policy decision-making to less mature democracies. Of course, it is not too late for Barbados, and the approach Barbados should take is to ban the holding of all weapons of any size in private hands. The only people allowed to legally to hold arms should be the Defence Force, the police and members of gun clubs.

For those people in gun clubs, all weapons and ammunition should be held under lock and key in the club; it should be made illegal to take weapons out of the security of the club without the approval of the police.
Strip all so-called licensed gun dealers, and those private citizens with licensed guns should have them withdrawn. There are those who will argue that criminals, including those in the illegal possession of weapons, would not necessarily hand them in just because the law states that. After all, they would put forward the moral hazard argument: that it is already illegal to have an unlicensed weapon and that does not stop the criminally inclined. Of course it does not. But with strong legislation, imposing tough, long sentences on those found in illegal possession of weapons, or threatening to kill or injure people with an alleged illegal weapon, the gamblers will realise they are taking a risk by either possessing or claiming to have illegal weapons. At the same time, the government should take steps to remove arms from non-state organisations, such as private policing organisations, such as G4S. By failing to strengthen the law against the illegal possession of firearms, and restricting ownership, the government is taking an unnecessary risk with public safety. Stricter legislation, better policing and tighter control of the containers coming in to the country – for example, searching them in the port in the presence of the firm or person for whom they are destined – would reduce the risk of gun smuggling.

The courts and director of prosecution’s office also need to respond with greater urgency in cases of shooting, both in terms of the speed with which cases come to the courts and the charges the accused faces. The gunmen in the urban villages such as New Orleans and the Ivy do not manufacture the guns they wield so brutally; the same people who sell them everything from hand-held pistols to sub-machines guns are the same who sell hungry Africans the most deadly of weapons.

The people who sell arms to gangsters in London and Paris via the internet are the same people who sell to guys in the Heights. The same people who have no moral compunction about not paying their national insurance and VAT are the same business people who smuggle guns in with their goods and produce. Do we honestly think that all those New Barbadians, those with their big yachts and access to private jets, visiting Barbados come here with empty hands. Although there is no suggestion of illegality, why is it that visitors to Sandy Lane have an underling taking their passports through immigration and their baggage often bypasses customs?

America is a society that is at war with itself, so it finds great pleasure in exporting its violence: from Hollywood to popular music, it defines its cultural, economic and military might through the ways these values have been absorbed by the rest of the world.

Such savagery should not define Barbados.

154 thoughts on “Notes From a Native Son: Desperate Youths are Resorting to Shoot-outs as they Battle to Survive

  1. Hon. Chris Sinckler is criticized every week in the Nation BLP newspaper by the following five persons:
    Clyde Mascoll, Pat Hoyos, Harry Russell, Sanka Price and Albert Branford.
    Three of these writers openly supported the BLP in the last election while the other two Price and Branford did not openly confess their support but the opinions expressed in their columns were ALWAYS in support of positions taken by the opposition.

    My simple question the Nation BLP Newspaper management is:
    5 columnists against Sinckler is overkill. Please give us some balance if your credibility and integrity as a media house means anything. You are too predictable- give readers at least a new columnist to provide balance and that person should not be Ezra Alleyne. That would be 6 against, zero for.

  2. how many newspapers in barbados? how many TV stations? mine you, the BLP can’t even pay for ad time on CBC and you NationBLPnewspaper calling for “credibility and integrity as a media house” give is a f-ing break will ya.

  3. Crime and Violence is so pronounced under the DLP mal-Administration that one calling himself Carson Cadogan ) goes to an event and is forced to announce that there has not been one (1) shooting. That is how things have gotten now in Barbados.

    While he was reporting this shit -the news reports were referring to Gun shots that were heard resonating from a Gun toting trigger happy individual in Baxters Road the day before. Guns and Gun play has now become a fad under the leaderless DLP mal- Administration. In the midst of it all they reduced money to the Police. Nobody , No stink Mout DLP supporter cant tell me that the DLP not looking to destroy Barbados.

    Lets hope the electorate can rid the country of the train wreck for a Government called the Democratic Labour Party before things get any worst. We do not see this mal- Administration called the DLP Government pulling back things.

  4. @ David

    The unemployment rate among 16-24yr olds in every society is usually much higher than the overall rate. In Spain, for example, it is over 50 per cent. I would be surprised if it is not over 25 per cent.
    More important, if young people are not engaged on leaving school, it can impact on them for the rest of their lives.
    Crime also spikes at that age, not surprisingly, after which the median age of criminals decreases.
    Few pensioners go about mugging. Types of crime are age and opportunity -related and the crimes that affect people most are youth crimes – violence, street disorders, etc.
    If an unemployed school leaver wants to learn a trade s/he has to pay SJPP anything up to $3-4000. It should be paid for by the taxpayers on the grounds that if they get in to work they will pay more in income tax, national insurance and VAT.

  5. Just Asking the chance for “the electorate can rid the country of the train wreck for a Government called the Democratic Labour Party” will be here shortly.

    lets see what happens then.

  6. @David(not BU)
    Deal with the issue posed and stop making foolish excuses. The facts are the Nation Newspaper has 5 pro BLP columnists who are writing very one sided columns every week. That is their right but why refuse to let anyone write in the Nation newspaper who will give a differing view?
    Even CBC which you deride has been giving coverage to the opposition public relations exercise known as “rubbing shoulders”. There is no one at CBC like Albert Branford or Sanka Price who is cussing one political party week after week,
    Deal with the facts and stop trying to make excuses for the Nation newspaper being used as the public relations department of the opposition,

    Answer the question: Why is it that the only columnists writing in the Nation newspaper on political and economic matters are admitted BLP supporters like Pat Hoyos, Clyde Mascoll, Harry Russell and then those who ALWAYS write anti DLP articles like Sanka Price and Albert Branford. Stop putting party before principles of good journalism.


    No stink Mout DLP Supporter can argue against that




    Nefertari–are you ready? Yuh think you come pon the Radio at this time by accident ? There is a divine plan for you girl –Come join the fight (You have no choice really) There is a time ; There is a season ! (You should recognize this code)

    Nalita ! Nalita–The time is nigh

    Two Powerful names that when repeated will shake up the Cosmic Forces and blow winds of significant change all over Barbados. NALITA NALITA NALITA

    Look I can see Wicked people getting scared already !

    Nefertiti don’t know how Powerful she is in Barbados. She will soon come to full realization
    Your father was a high Science man-girl -That’s all I would say for now

  8. National BLP…………..let the nation continue to drown in their cesspool of political pandering and yardfowlism, the voting public always gets the last word for indeed their are the personification of doers of evil and wickedness in high places demonstarting weekly the art of unetheical and tabloid journalism


    “…… is forced to announce that there has not been one (1) shooting.”

    As usual you misrepresent!

    The BLOG OWNER is the one creating the impression that everyday they are shootings.

    My comments are simply giving the lie to his statement.

  10. @ac
    It seems that the Nation newspaper tried everything in its power to sway the public against the DLP.
    We had the cost of a prime minister’s official trip on government business plastered across the front page of the Sunday Sun when this Prime Minister has spent much less in foreign travel than even some of the junior ministers in the previous BLP administration spent but then again, the Nation newspaper chairman and boss Sir Fred was the BLP appointed senator who presided during the BLP administration.
    We had the Nation BLP newspaper playing the role of the official opposition and to this date has not produced any letter with signatures sent to the PM after telling the whole of Barbados they had a signed letter.
    We had and still have a policy of only pro BLP writers allowed to have columns on politics and finance so Clyde Mascoll, Pat Hoyos and Harry Russell can pollute the paper with partisan invective every week with no response or alternative view.
    I can go on and on but it seems that the higher the Nation Newspaper climbs, the more we say their BLP back side.
    A newspaper does not choose the news but it hires the columnists to put their “spin” on the news. Can any objective and honest Barbadian say that Clyde Mascoll, Ezra Alleyne, Pat Hoyos , Harry Russell and Albert Brandford are fair and balanced. There is absolutely no proof to suggest they are impartial but yet the Nation BLP newspaper refuses to give anyone associated with the DLP a chance to write about the politics or economics of this country.
    Would someone at the Nation newspaper who reads this blog have the integrity to address this issue . Even CBC is appearing now to be fairer than the Nation newspaper.

  11. Congrats to The Barbados Advocate for showing how balanced a newspaper can be. The entire page 6 of The Advocate on Sunday, October 13, 2013 is dedicated to coverage of the opposition BLP news conference complete with photo of Santia Bradshaw and Indar Weir.
    There is no one sided columnist like Pat Hoyos only lambasting one party but intelligent contributions from Jeff Cumberbatch, and Pro. Henry Fraser.

    I repeat on the issue of balanced journalism, the Nation newspaper is the only media house is Barbados that refuses to be balanced and is using one sided columns to try to sway public opinion.

    Mia Mottley only has to sneeze and she is given a front page or page 3 in The Nation BLP newspaper. Where is the balance?

  12. National BLP………do like ac use the paer for fish wrappp for kitty litter…can a leoopard change its spot……..the slander and political divisivness is evident in those articles which can be punished by laughter and tossed into the dump of forgetfulness

    • @enuff

      The only Caribbean country with negative projection as well as actual.

      Well this is something we have discuss at length on BU.

      On 13 October 2013 15:44, Barbados Underground

  13. One would never see a balance from the architects of Doom and Gloom called the Nation. a differnt perspective would be a miscalculation on their part and would undermine their Intentions of anarchy and havoc

  14. @ NationBLP and S-hound ac..

    SO WAIT ……..IF they spoke untruths……would the paper not BE SUED?

    HUSH MAN HUSH…..wanna talking bare BOO..
    Wickham’s article page 25 A ….”Last week Minister of Finance Christopher Sinckler confirmed that his 2013 Budget contained errors of a typographical nature and ended speculation about interpretation of two provisions.”.. Whaloss …in a Budget?…wait nobody dont read and re-read them for errors?…Imagine that….rules that hard working bajans will be called upon to live by and they plagued wid errors.BRASSBOWL !

    Next up… page 24 A Hoyos article ..A Solid Waste of Time…re : the introduction of the new land tax ..again mo errors ( had Donville too in noughts).. the gist …I quote from the article…”While you can call it anything you want to, it is a really Part Two of the land tax, as is calculated on the same bands used to figure out your land tax. Except that while your land tax is set at 0.6%, the municipal solid waste tax, AS ANNOUNCED, was set at 0.7 %.”

    That ent all….blunders again with the Consolidated Tax rates ..but I ent going there now…enuff to say there was similar confusion for business places ……

    NOW TELL ME ….why we paying $ 17,000 a month to these men…

  15. Enuff …Keep up the “good work ” yard fowl .u self loathing assassin and accomplice of the dirty rag Nation newspaper, Oh that was what I said in the comment u did not understand…..

  16. This Country is at its lowest ebb
    The DLP is not performing well
    No stink Mout DLP supporter can refute this
    Should the Nation say otherwise ?
    Should they praise an inept Government for poor performance ?


  17. @Enuff
    you, David (not BU) and the other apologists continue to put party first and sound journalism second. We have the largest newspaper in Barbados pursuing a partisan agenda with a policy of using political operatives to lambaste only one party.
    This might be in the interest of the BLP but how does Barbados benefit from this imbalance. It does nothing to move this country forward or raise the level of debate.

  18. Enuff
    @ ac
    Hahaaaaaaaaaaaaaa a house fowl with a brain. Don’t get tie up!!!!

    O>K> YOU bald POOCH TURKEY………………………..

  19. At least the Advocate more palatable and resist the gutter snipping that is so prelevant in the dirty rag known as the Nation newspaper what a waste of technology and paper. The advocate articles are matured and well thought out unlike the dribble called journalism that is spouted by wannabee journalist who had not for that rag would not have a job..i guess that is being “grateful exposing their illiterate goobbly junk on the public some of whom called themselves intelligent……

  20. @Native Son ” Of course, it is not too late for Barbados, and the approach Barbados should take is to ban the holding of all weapons of any size in private hands. The only people allowed to legally to hold arms should be the Defence Force, the police and members of gun clubs.”

    So what are you saying Native Son, that some citizens are more equal than others?

    When a member of a gun club shoots my littly johnny dead, and tells me “oops!!! it is an accident” you can forgive the gun club member if you like, but I want the right to shoot him dead.

  21. Let me misquote Native Son

    “The United Kingdom is a society that is at war with itself, [and the world, aka colonies] so it finds great pleasure in exporting its violence: from movies to popular music, it defines its cultural, economic and military might through the ways these values have been absorbed by the rest of the world. Such savagery should not define Barbados.”

  22. @Native Son “If for no other reason, the US can stand as a model of public policy decision-making to less mature democracies.”

    And what led you to believe that the U.S. [or the U.K.] are mature democracies.

    We fool ourselves when we believe such nonsense.

    Each country each generation has to redefine it self. Has to work hard as hell to protect and strengthen its inherited institutions.

    Some false sense of “maturity” just will not cut it.

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