The Reality of Crime in Dominica: At Last Some Statistics
Undoubtedly, Dominica is one of the most peaceful countries in the world, but this distinction may be made immaterial because of the alarming increases in crime over the past decade.
We, the press, on behalf of the Dominican public have been trying to obtain statistics on crime in Dominica but the hierarchy of the Police Force has staunchly refused, implying that these figures were either too embarrassing, too worrying or, apparently, too much a reflection of the inefficiency of police in the fight against crime. For instance, Police Commissioner Daniel Carbon, according to the Dominica News Online, said in early January 2019 that he was concerned about escalating crime in Dominica but when the Police Chief was asked for statistics on all crime committed in Dominica he said: "I will decide if I should release this to the media…it is my prerogative to so do and I will decide on that."
But hidden figures, as well as hidden crimes, have a way of coming to light, sometimes in the most unexpected way. By the way, Mr. Carbon is not the only public servant who has tried to keep information, especially unflattering statistics, from the Dominican public. Getting information from Ministers, Permanent Secretaries and Chief Technical Officers in the public service is the bane of journalists in Dominica, a country without a Freedom of Information Act and a place with a penchant for opacity in the conduct of public affairs.
But the fears of the police that the latest crime figures may be unflattering may be justified because the figures are indeed unflattering in such a small, peaceful, underpopulated and severely undeveloped country. We have argued in the past that hiding basic demographic or developmental data is counterproductive because when you plan using false data you are really applying the wrong medicine to an ailment and you are wasting your time. But this administration has been asking Dominicans to live in fake realities for many years, espousing false realities such as Dominica's economy is the best performing economy in the Caribbean. It is really the worst. But we digress.
What are the realities of Crime in Dominica in 2018? Here they are: Murder (11); Rape (6); Grievous Bodily Harm (58); Burglary (595); Kidnapping (1); Indecent Assault (21) and Robbery (69). What about 2017? Here are the figures: Murder (12); Rape (12); Grievous Bodily Harm (51); Burglary (845); Kidnapping (4); Indecent Assault (34) and Robbery (72).
Hence, we would advise the government that the experience of other countries of the Caribbean, especially Jamaica and Trinidad, indicates that if you ignore the conditions that breed crime, in a few short years we could have a crime crisis on our hands.
You will recall that a few years ago Dr. Francis Severin, the then Head of the University of the West Indies Open Campus Dominica came to a similar conclusion in his analysis of the crime situation in Dominica but he was almost beheaded by politicians of the ruling party because they apparently prefer Dominicans to bury their heads in the sand and pretend that there is no crime to worry about in paradise. Probably that could be the reason why both the Commissioner of Police and the Statistical Division refused our requests for the latest crime statistics in Dominica. Crime has been a major constraint to the development of the Caribbean and leaders must now do much more than talk about the problem.
According to the World Bank report: Crime, Violence and Development Trends, Costs and Policy Options in the Caribbean" murder rates in the Caribbean are higher than in any other region of the world and assault rates are significantly above the world average. The causes of such alarming statistics are well known.
For instance, we know that Caribbean countries are fast lanes for the cocaine traffickers of Latin America and that gun ownership, an offshoot of the drug trade, is the fuel that generates violent crimes. Youth violence, we are told, has become a major threat to public health and criminal deportees from the United States have directly and indirectly contributed to the increase in crimes in the region. Additionally, the criminal justice system is ineffective and inefficient. But the emergence of the gang culture among our youth is one of the most disturbing aspects of the growing crime culture. Most importantly, the root of today's lawlessness has been attributed to the loss of respect for the State and the rule of law. This situation is acerbated by the perception of a high level of corruption in high places.
The point we need to stress is that much more needs to be done to control the spate of crimes in Dominica, and the Caribbean, before it is too late. Crime committed against nationals is bad but it is worse when it is directed against the fragile and absolutely important tourism, and there has been more than a few crime committed against our visitors, on the streets in broad daylight in recent months. There is the urgent need to stop the nation's slide into criminality.