Editorial: The first line of defence

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“SMH!” That was one of the popular responses to the news that there was yet another murder in our bit of paradise. For those of you who are not familiar with the acronym, it means “shaking my head,” and it seemed to be the most popular first response. Maybe it is because so many people were actually shaking their heads when they heard the news and saw the SMH-responses. They could relate.
For little ole’ Antigua and Barbuda to have three murders in ten short days is shocking. By and large we are a peaceful country. Like everywhere else, we have crime. But for the most part, we do not have a lot of murders. Already, the general response has been “what is the police doing?” or “what is government doing?”
We can understand that sentiment, but police action and government policy is only one aspect of crime-fighting in any society. There must be action by the community. There must be a visible rejection of crime so that perpetrators feel uncomfortable and unwelcomed in our midst.
Blaming the police and government is easy and convenient. By its very nature, the government invokes a political response and one born out of frustration. By extension, the police take the brunt of the politicisation of crime and are quickly called inept. We say “easy,” but the better term is probably lazy. Blaming easy targets for crime is a lazy approach to dealing with crime.
Citizens are the first line of defence when it comes to criminal behaviour. The type of crime that we are talking about starts on our streets and ends on our streets. It is usually influenced more by citizens than it is police or government. There are many contributors including family life, societal values, unemployment, etc., but we believe the main one is: are we our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper?
This may sound very familiar but it is worth repeating. In almost every crime out there, somebody, somewhere knows something. The problem is they are not willing to come forward and be their brothers’ or sisters’ keeper. They, for whatever reasons, say nothing and allow the society to decay. That slow creep of indifference is what we need to arrest.
This general concept of keeping a watchful, caring eye is the foundation of organisations like Neighbourhood Watch and Crime Stoppers. There can be no doubt that a community with members who watch each other’s backs is safer than a community that keeps their windows and doors shuttered. Criminals do not like witnesses, and they will not likely venture into communities that demonstrate that each member is an active witness to everything that transpires around them.
Unfortunately, crime is one of those things in life that will always be with us. The Government can implement all the anti-crime policies they want, but they can never eliminate crime. Likewise, the police can patrol and implement all the anti-crime policies of the government, but they cannot be everywhere all the time. We, the people, must be the ones that push crime out of our precious society. If not, the cancer that is crime will overtake our communities and slowly kill the peaceful way of life that we enjoy.
Is this armchair philosophising? Absolutely! But that does not mean that the logic and message is flawed. People need to start redefining the boundaries of their homes and go beyond the physical walls. And just as you would question a stranger in your home, do so for your community. When you see suspicious activity or people, report it to the police. Help them help you.
We are not attempting to give the police an excuse for not doing a better job, but we do know that doing a better job, with the limited resources available, largely rests on all of us doing a better job helping them.
If none of this has persuaded you to do more to secure your community from crime, then we shall appeal to your selfish side. If you are not looking out for your neighbour, it is very likely your neighbour is not looking out for you.
Therefore, who comes to your rescue when criminals are breaking into your home? Taking it to the next level, you need to remember, a bullet that misses its target does not have a brain or a conscience. It will eventually find a new target that could be you or someone you care about.
So, go ahead. Be a bit selfish. Look out for your neighbour so that he or she looks out for you. It is a cheap way to protect your property and your life.
We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.

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