Post 482.

WITH murders on the rise, we need to focus on efforts at peace-building that have been effective across the region.

Gut reaction is for heavier policing and securitisation. Yet more manpower, firepower and armed patrols, and better surveillance and detection toward convictions, can only go so far.

Any real strategy has to both protect the population and solve the problem, which also requires addressing root causes.

I’ve opened with the word peace-building rather than crime-fighting because those efforts that address risk of violence are as important as those that respond to violent outcomes.

Interventions must be different and specific at the points of risk, outbreak, escalation, recurrence and continuation of violent crime. The reasons why violence occurs may be different from why it escalates, and the goal is to move backward from increasing killings to fewer moments of outbreak and less risk.

This is the only way to create a pathway from violence back to peace.

Understanding this level of detail as necessary protects the population from believing quick-fix announcements that score political points, but gloss over details, evidence and impact.

The conditions for youth risk created by traumas at home from family violence are often connected to socio-economic precarity and poor school outcomes, and escalated through access to weapons, gangs and legal and illegal sources of income.

Let’s be clear that we are discussing male youth, and that any assessment of causes needs also to challenge dominant ideals of manhood that value violence as a source of identity and status.

Opportunities for positive self-expression and community cohesion, and a sense of having some power in the world, are well-known responses.

There are also the basics: skills training and certification; apprenticeship and internship opportunities which provide a stipend while providing experience; and programmes that involve the whole family, targeting parents as well as providing resources for food, transport and schooling.

Often, this is the work of community organisations, operating on a shoestring and mostly women’s labour. They are the very fabric of peace-building, not efforts at its edges.

For example, the Cashew Gardens Community Council has described the success of reaching children through an environmental programme which gives them “a feel for what is going on in the planet and a push to work harder for a better world,” as well as through a homework centre, which “has improved their behaviour and communication and so the disputes are not there.”

This peace-building pathway treats opportunity for leadership and a sense of community as key.

Keeping children in school through homework centres has other benefits. As the National Commission on Crime Prevention pointed out for St Vincent and the Grenadines, getting children back into schools means that criminals don’t have children to hide guns in their backpacks or to tell them when police are coming or doing searches. Gangs, they found, make more mistakes when children are all in school and can’t be used.

A risk-aware pathway also provides safe spaces and safe adult relationships for youth.

As a National Council of Women worker in St Vincent and the Grenadines put it, “Children come here on a morning…for a hug and for me to tell them that I love them. A young man once told me in 18 years, they never told him that they love him.”

A member of the Caribbean Ambassadors and the Cadets in St Vincent and the Grenadines similarly reported, “Sometimes it is showing them love and appreciation…so our home becomes an extended family.”

Community Police in Belize echoed this, saying, “Gangs bring in the children by making them feel their needs are being taken care of.”

However dysfunctional and mixed with toxicity, subordination, discipline and fear, gangs are where boys “feel a lot of love.”

An official in Probation and Child Protection spoke about how the TTPS addresses this: “You cannot look at the crime the child is committing, you have to look at the risk factors they have faced. They are children,” and staff have to be trained to show them respect, and “not deal with fire with fire.”

Children also need school-based trauma reduction to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from community violence, seeing dead bodies, witnessing family killed, and hearing gunshots at night.

In Jamaica, Fight for Peace trains people in communities in psychological first aid to supplement gaps in social services provision.

It sounds naïve, but more love is what at-risk boys need. I feel people’s terror, but want us to remember it’s always and ultimately about building peace.

Post 359.

A gender-based violence (GBV) unit is being established by the TTPS. Expectations are high and likely beyond what police response can provide, because real solutions require that policing be integrated with legal amendments, social services, NGO partnerships, data-driven strategies, community buy-in, and cultural change.

Hope is that the unit can coordinate TTPS approaches to intimate partner violence, domestic violence and sexual violence in order to, among other goals, reduce the number of women killed.

Only about 7% of women report intimate partner violence (IPV) to the police. Of those that report experiencing partner violence in their lifetime, about 25% do not report. If the TTPS implements measures to make reporting easier, kinder and safer, such as through taking reports from victims at their homes rather than at a station, those numbers could increase. What happens then?

The whole system, from hotlines to victim and witness support services to shelters to the magistrate and family courts, will have to be prepared for a surge in demand when women believe that reporting could lead to real protection and conviction. We won’t be sure if increased numbers reflect a rise in violence or a decrease in fear and silence, but forecasting these scenarios by the GBV unit is necessary.

It’s the same with orders of protection. If around 10 000 are sought every year, what happens when better policing means they become easier to secure and more likely to be enforced through better record keeping of women’s reports, timely serving of summons, lethality assessments, and other follow up?

There were 579 breaches of protection orders in five years, 174 breaches in 2019 alone. If these men are going to end up in jail, and they should – for breaching a protection order is a deliberate crime, are we prepared to provide mandatory counselling for perpetrators, to implement a restorative approach, and to find ways of making these repeat offenders less likely to get back out of jail and kill? Women report fear for their lives when perpetrators are released, particularly when women are not informed by the prison system. Better policing is also going to require forecasting implications in relation to perpetrators.

The GBV Unit can do a number of things: continue to clarify the law for all police officers, not just those with oversight of GBV or DV crimes; continue to educate all police about established protocols with regard to domestic violence reports; recognize that police may be friendly with perpetrators, may be perpetrators and may discourage reporting; and include outreach to migrant women so they know that they can safely report GBV crimes, which are a violation of their human rights, without fear of deportation or greater vulnerability to traffickers.

The unit can also establish a case study approach to better understand how to reduce men’s killing of women who have applied for orders of protection, and make sure the Domestic Violence Register is being actively engaged. It should work closely with the Child Protection Unit, Victim and Witness Support Unit, and Family Court to share rather than duplicate data. It’s also possible that DV reports can anticipate child sexual abuse reports, and the Unit will need to understand the intersection of different forms of GBV in this way.

CAPA doesn’t currently make perpetrator data easily accessible. As we continue to emphasise understanding and ending perpetration, and not only telling women to recognize “red flags”, sex-disaggregated data that supports this advocacy is also necessary.

The Unit should not start from scratch. The Coalition Against Domestic Violence has already been working with TTUTA to develop and implement the school programme, “Education for Empathy and Equality”. The Sexual Culture of Justice project is producing a toolkit for the Police Academy with protocols for training new police officers on issues of LGBTI bias and gender based violence. It also highlights the particular vulnerability of transgender persons, which is part of the problem of under-reporting.

Caricom recently published procedures for collecting data on domestic violence which may eliminate some obstacles to filling out report forms. CAFRA has been undertaking gender sensitization with police for decades, and the Network of Rural Women Producers has been working with youth and police in the police youth clubs, using the UN He For She Campaign and the Foundations Programme, to promote gender equality.

A civil society advisory committee to provide guidance and ensure accountability is key. The Unit has the opportunity to get things right before getting them wrong. Women’s lives are at stake. Fear and outrage demand urgency.