Back then, it seemed that some of our young, our nation’s future, found pleasure in settling disputes by watching the demise of a former friend or classmate. Sadly, death for two blossoming men would come by ambush in the dead of night and many of our community’s young men and the lives of their beloved parents and families would change forever.
Five years since the violent and gory deaths of two promising young men at a blow in Cayon, there has been a record number of senseless homicides in the federation, many of which remain unsolved and a majority of them involving the demise of the nation’s future; our youths.
Five years later, the people of Cayon still face the real fear of fearless criminals who settle the score by the draw of a gun. Since the brutal double homicide on the main road in 2008, many residents of Cayon have heard the frequent ricocheting of bullets near their homes. There have been other brutal murders of young soldiers in our village and despite the occasional lull, fear still remains among many residents that an ingrained thirst for revenge still exists between various individuals and self proclaimed gangs.
Whether or not we choose to admit it, the federation’s males between the age of 16 and 30 years old are an endangered group. Youth on youth crime remains a national crisis that demands varying levels of intervention in the quest to achieve viable solutions that will keep all of our people safe.
Today, many of our nation’s parents wrestle with thoughts of what they could have done differently to save their children from a brutal earthly demise or a life bound by the walls of prison.
Since 2000, the homicide rate in St. Kitts-Nevis has exceeded 10 deaths per year. Such statistics translate to over one hundred of our boys in 13 years. What was once described as merely pockets of mischievous youth activity has manifested itself as a legitimate gang culture; at least in the eyes of the general public. While the dialogue aimed at preventing crime must continue, the measures that will drive the crime rate down must also be implemented with bold conviction by those in authority.
Many other families in my hometown and throughout St. Kitts and Nevis for that matter are pained. They live their lives everyday with a void that neither time nor space can ever fill. In fact, the world of a victim’s family is not only painful, dark, and lonely but it is also mysterious. To live among residents of a small community where a loved one met his or her demise in such a violent manner is hurtful and it takes years to mend that void. But there is also added hurt for those mourning their loved ones as they walk the streets while rumors run rife that a victim may well have known his or her killer or even worse, the murderer may still be walking the streets of a community showboating as a fearless brute whose hands bear the blood of a mother’s son.
In a crime symposium held back in 2007, Mr. Stephen Walwyn of Nevis remarked, “Crime undermines our social and human development, our economic development and in a very real way, our democracy.” Six years since his declaration, we must ask ourselves, “How has crime changed our individual communities and ultimately our federation?” Further, despite the encroachment of crime on our neighborhoods, how are we as individuals and collective bodies seeking to annihilate this culture from those young people who somehow find crime attractive?
A young man recently shared his experience of incarceration at Her Majesty’s Prison in Basseterre, St. Kitts. He explained what it felt like from day one to day ninety. (His was a 3 month sentence for assault and he chose not to pay the fine, thereby forfeiting his freedom for what he thought would be an easy prison stint).
By his account, HMP’s overcrowding and unsanitary conditions particularly in crammed spaces made for a hellish encounter. Six years later, with counseling from family and several community leaders, he walks the straight and narrow, vowing never to compromise his freedom. The young man’s grim experience is a lesson for every young person who finds the courage to change his or her life to become part of the positive redirection of our social, economic and human development with a view to save our democracy.
Emma Goldman, author of Anarchism: What It Really Stands For writes, “Crime is naught but misdirected energy. So long as every institution of today, economic, political, social, and moral, conspires to misdirect human energy into wrong channels; so long as most people are out of place doing the things they hate to do, living a life they loathe to live, crime will be inevitable, and all the laws on the statutes can only increase, but never do away with, crime.” And so the question remains, How are we channeling the energies of our young soldiers?
The cry to save our nation’s soldiers ought to ring out from the rolling hills of the Green Valley to the verdant pastures of Newton Ground to the historical Brimstone Hill Fortress and across the narrows to downtown Charlestown meandering through every village in little Nevis until the tune resonates with every mother, every father, every law enforcement official, every public advocate, every man of the cloth, and every citizen of the federation: We ALL have a part to play in stopping the murders and the tears, in ending youth violence and eradicating the fears.
We can’t replace the hundreds of young soldiers we have lost but through our positive involvement in their lives, we can ensure that our young people prepare themselves to be champions of our nation and bold, bright leaders of the future.
May peace abide with all who mourn the loss of a fallen young soldier and may our leaders and law enforcement personnel continue to seek out effective measures to minimize the incidence of crime in our federation.