The following Letter to the Editor on the emotive response to the murder of Shannon Banfield was submitted to Wired868 by Kenna Clarke:
“Bring back the noose!” is the sentiment expressed by many following the murder of Shannon Banfield. Her tragic death shook us to our core. If a young and innocent girl can be murdered off one of the busiest streets in Port of Spain in broad daylight, are we really safe anywhere?
We are not only grieving for Shannon; we are grieving for our lost sense of security. We are angry and we want justice. The hardest part is that we don’t know how to rid ourselves of this feeling of powerlessness.
At a critical junction like this, objectivity and strategy is needed—not raw emotions. We can’t let this feeling of despair and powerlessness cause us to lose our humanity like her killers. We must be strategic and channel our collective anger discerningly.
After Shannon’s death, much of the ensuing conversations revolved around the reintroduction of the death penalty. But how can the death penalty be a deterrent for crime if no one is ever convicted?
Six percent of all murderers are successfully prosecuted in Trinidad. You have a 94 percent chance of walking away scot-free. If I were a killer, I would gladly take those odds.
But more importantly, our premise is wrong to begin with. Just because you are afraid of being hanged, doesn’t mean that the persons committing the murders are. Which is why capital punishment never works as a crime deterrent.
Everyone who commits premeditated murder expects to beat the system. They don’t think of the consequences of being caught because they always assume that they are smarter than the system/police. Hence in countries or states where capital punishment is still carried out, there is no reduction in crime.
Yet the average Trinidadian will insist that re-instituting the death penalty is solid policy.
Having lived in a few OECD countries across 3 continents, you know what I have realised makes developed countries developed? They follow the evidence!
They are not inherently smarter or less violent. Instead, developed countries recognise that we all may have slightly different culture from each other, but much of the research holds true across the board. If the proposed solution has never worked, they try something new and/or different. After all, isn’t the purpose of education to learn from our/others mistakes?
Do we even know the root of crime? Why do some of these fellas find it so easy to take a life?
We can’t solve a problem unless we correctly identify the problem. We keep throwing solutions at the wall hoping they will stick but with little effort to properly characterise the problem.
A National Day of Prayer or the death penalty will not work because they do nothing to address the root of crime. So what are some solutions?
More police officers on the street does nothing to curb the cause of crime. It’s not even an efficient band aid. We already have one of the highest number of police officers in the world—76 per 10,000 citizens—and that clearly hasn’t done anything to reduce crime. So let’s try a different approach.
Maybe we can address social issues instead. Income inequality in Trinidad and Tobago is horrid. One of the best indicators of crime is not how poor a country is—that, surprisingly, doesn’t have any correlation with crime—it is in fact the disparity between rich and poor.
So why not look at policies designed to lessen this disparity. It worked in a post-great depression America in addition to a slew of other countries more recently.
We can build a society where you can succeed in multiple avenues and nurture the various talents of our children and not tie academics to their self-worth. Just like we have open scholarships for our academically inclined, we should give the same number of scholarships to youths who show promise in music, sports and the arts.
Another solution would be a top down approach to crime.
You know what would send shock waves through the criminal community? If the government went after corruption at the top level. That sends the message that there is accountability and no one is above the law.
The average Trinbagonian doesn’t need a research paper emanating from UWI to know that laws are not implemented equally across the board. If I were to get caught with a joint in front of a police officer, most likely I will be arrested. Change my name and complexion and the outcome would most likely be quite different.
Many people live that experience. They may not be able to articulate the injustice but they sure feel it. If you want the public to regain trust in the governance, they have to see laws being enforced at the highest levels.
Accountability doesn’t start at the bottom and work its way up. It must be a top down approach. This isn’t just my myopic opinion. It’s one of the actions that took Singapore from being a poor shipping outpost to a financial behemoth.
Former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew prosecuted party officials and their family members engaged corruption harsher than Joe Public to send the message that corruption will not be tolerated at any level. He gained the unstinting trust of the public as a result. He may not have been liked by everyone, but he sure was respected.
Lastly, how about the police actually solve crime. Detection rates are low, overtime is high, and crime is going from bad to worse. A complete overhaul of how the police conducts itself is needed.
Many of us want a panacea for crime, unfortunately there is none. It’s going to be a long and difficult process. There is work to be done. Let us not shirk our responsibilities and blame everyone but ourselves for the crime problem.
It didn’t happen overnight and it will not be solved overnight. Let’s get to work!