IS ANYONE SAFE?


Up to five years ago I would walk regularly to meetings from my office north along Avenue of the Republic, from west of the Supreme Court building, then west into Robb Street, to the then Fogarty’s building in Water Street. On my return, I would walk south along Water Street, then east into Commerce Street, turning south into the Avenue of the Republic. I would be dressed in a long- sleeved shirt, covering my wristwatch, and tie. Along the way, one or two persons would recognize and acknowledge me, sometimes loudly. For ten years between 2001 to 2011 I would regularly walk from my office to Parliament Building. For many decades I would walk to court from Avenue of the Republic, east along Charlotte Street, dressed in court wear, with the robe on one arm and files in the other. Lawyers, similarly attired, can be seen at most times of the day in Croal Street walking to and from the Supreme Court or Magistrates Court buildings. Is it safe to continue doing so?

At all times of the day two persons on cycles or motorcycles can be seen speedily darting in and out of vehicular traffic. For many years now there have been regular reports of robberies of persons, either pedestrians or passengers in motor vehicles at traffic lights, by persons on bicycles or motorcycles. Of course, not everyone on cycles or motorcycles has a criminal intent. But press reports and anecdotal stories, not reported to the police, are so numerous, that as soon as this type of traffic is seen on the street, it drives the fear of attack into a pedestrian carrying a bag or package. For many years, armed robberies of persons who have transacted business at banks, by two-person gangs on motorcycles, sometimes resulting in the shooting deaths of victims, have been a regular feature in the crime pages of newspapers. Armed robberies of business premises are recognized hazards of doing business.

Some time ago my firm invited a security consultant to give our staff a talk about protecting ourselves in the event of an invasion of our office in the course of a robbery. Seven things have stayed with me. The first is that it must be assumed that the bandits are prepared to kill. The second is that protecting your life should be your highest priority. The third is that your eyes must be averted so that it would not appear that you are looking at the bandit. The fourth is that your hands must be visible. The fifth is that no sudden movement should be made. The sixth is that the bandits must be allowed to take whatever they want. The seventh is that there should be no resistance.

The instinct by a person to resist during the perpetration of a crime, as many do, is natural and reflexive. The sudden shock of a robbery would tend to draw an immediate, if defensive, reaction, too swift for conscious calculation. No one has the luxury of time to consider the seven principles laid out above. It is clear from what we have seen over the decades that bandits are prepared to kill anyone who resists them. This is not to say, because resistance to sudden attack is made, that victims deserve their fate, or encourage violence upon them for wearing jewellery, or withdrawing funds from the bank, or that the violence by bandits is somehow invited.

An unoriginal thought, promoted in a letter to the press some time ago, is to make illegal the carriage of a passenger on the bar of a bicycle or a pillion rider on a motorcycle. As everyone knows, it is the passenger or the pillion rider who commits the crime while the rider waits on the cycle or motorcycle to make a quick escape. There will be howls of protest and this wouldn’t stop the crimes. But it would make them a little more difficult, as was the case in Honduras. But I get the feeling that the authorities are not prepared to receive suggestions.

Many, though not all of these criminals, are caught, convicted and imprisoned, and are out in three years or less. Twice in the past I suggested that magistrates be given power to refer convicted persons to the High Court for sentencing in cases where they consider that the convicted person should spend more than three years in prison. The last time I checked, a Magistrate’s power to imprison is limited to three years but an offence of the convicted person may carry a sentence higher than three years. Armed robbers are out in less than three years, while in other countries ten to twenty years is the norm.

Snuffing out the lives of two young men, Joshua Denny, a 19-year old electrician of Festival City, North Ruimveldt, and Ganesh (Chris) Persaud, a 21-year old businessman of Strathspey, East Coast, over gold chains has been amongst the saddest news in this month of October. I cannot begin to contemplate what kind of Christmases these families will have, or the lifelong pain they will suffer.

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