Thinking for ourselves

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No one, certainly not us, could have foreseen the firestorm which was created by the release of the police crime statistics for 2016.
The airwaves were lit up on Thursday, as people from every strata called into the radio station to express their views, describe their experiences or give anecdotal accounts of encounter with law enforcement.
No one spoke positively of the numbers they were hearing about for the first time. Some expressed outright disbelief, others skepticism, while still others scoffed, mocked or derided the numbers, based on their personal beliefs. A few were willing to admit that the police could not account for what they were not apprised of, but said this, too, was their fault because the citizenry were so disenchanted that they had stopped lodging complaints.
There is no doubt that there is a huge credibility gap between the police and the citizenry. It does appear that almost everyone has a story to tell about police negligence, brutality or incompetence. It cannot be a feather in the lawmen’s cap that the statistics do not speak to the solve rate or the rate of conviction. Whatever the numbers are, they are only a part of the story– a small part at that.
There are several branches of science that speak to the ‘why’ of crime. We wonder if there is room in the police organization to go beyond the numbers and somehow get to the analysis of why certain types of crimes in Antigua & Barbuda are either not diminishing and why others are increasing.
For example, the number of murders– the most heinous of crime– increased from five to eight or if we were to go by the book, the last killing was counted as the first for 2017, as the victim was hurt in the old year but died in the new. This latest almost made it a 100 percent increase in murders.
Has anyone bothered to check what percentage of these killings were due to domestic violence, which to youth- upon- youth violence and which were due to reasons not connected with either cause, such as drugs or gangs?
The perception of something to hide was not helped by the tardiness of the release of the stats. In every other Caribbean country, it did not take 12 days into the new year for the citizenry to know just how hard law enforcement had been working on their behalf in the year just ended. It did not take goading from a media house to have them publish the results of their efforts, either.
At various times throughout 2016, we were told that the country was doing remarkably well, as crime had taken a nosedive. Now that the numbers have been tallied, we venture to say a 15 percent drop in many quarters would not be so described, unless the number is measured against a trend going back a number of years. For the rate of decrease to be meaningful, it would have to be prolonged for a specified period.
As a matter of fact, a closer look at the more serious crimes, to include rape and murder would reveal either an increase or a statistically insignificant decrease.
For 2017, every effort should be made to close the credibility gap (which at this moment best resembles a chasm) between the
police and those whom they have sworn to protect and serve.
One of the ways to do this is to endear themselves to the people. All of us have witnessed the hierarchy of the police at work in other societies. The police chief would be first to face the music whenever there is a heinous crime which causes undue alarm. His job would be to reassure the public as well as provide updates.
It would not have hurt, and certainly would have helped, if our commissioner of police had held a press conference, subjected himself and his numbers to scrutiny, and fielded questions from people who are trained in the art of eliciting information and analyzing both the data and responses.
The hierarchy of the force must be aware that the public has many queries for which the cry has been the lack of adequate response.
We would like to think that we have the competency here at Observer, or at least know where it resides, to arrive at our own conclusions given a set of numbers.
 We are strong suppoters of the police, however, the era of having others think for us has long past.
We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.

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