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For What Will it Profit...

Gun violence in Toronto has claimed its 44th victim so far this year. In a major metropolitan city with a population of 2.48 million residents, the authorities are under tremendous pressure to address the issue with urgency. Already, businesses have expressed concern about its effect on investments and the impact on tourism. The Toronto Community Foundation released a study entitled "Vital Signs 2005", which looks at the city’s economic, environmental, educational, social and cultural health. The authors urged the Provincial Government and the public to “look beyond the headlines”. The report established a link between youth violence, cuts in social programs and a feeling of alienation from the wider community among other social and economic factors. Youth (18yrs.-24yrs.) unemployment in Toronto is at a 10 year high of 17% - more than double the citywide average.

To combat the escalating violence, a “Community Safety Plan” was developed to help crime - riddled, low-income neighborhoods through a combination of tougher law enforcement and increase investment in social infrastructure. Businesses are being urged to hire young people from hard hit neighborhoods and they are responding with enthusiasm. Community organizations have stepped up their advocacy for investment in community programs and the results are encouraging. The report asks the very pertinent question “is it worth saving dollars by cutting social programs to end up having to later spend more on policing and the justice system?” The general response from the Government, the public and business owners is a resounding; No!

The Toronto Dominion Bank, one of the most conservative financial institutions in Canada, recently conducted a study, which blasts the Government for reducing welfare benefits and cutting social programs. It claims that the effects of these fiscal measures have made the society more vulnerable to criminal activities and have contributed to an increase in gun violence and delinquency in the city.

By comparison, the death toll from gun violence in Trinidad has surpassed the 300 mark as of September 2005 and it continues to climb. The country is under siege and there appears to be no strategy to stem this disturbing tide. When asked in September if the crime situation was discussed in a ministerial meeting, Mr. Donaldson is reported to have answered emphatically, “No! We did not discuss that at all.” How many more must die before the Trinidad public can see some concrete actions being taken to stem this scourge upon the land? I have always held tenaciously to the belief that worsening social conditions in certain segments of the society, widening economic disparity, a decline in quality education at the primary and secondary levels and a sense of hopelessness are major contributors to the escalating crime situation in Trinidad.

Crime is not a new phenomenon in any part of the world neither is it necessary to re-invent the wheel to address it effectively. Invariable - with notable exceptions, crime is closely associated with extenuating social problems. This creates a breeding ground for criminals and those who seek to profit from the desperation of the poor. If the crime situation is to abate, it is imperative that massive investments be made in the poorest communities. Economic development strategies, educational and social programs to involving the youths, increased community law enforcement are all steps in the right direction.

In addition, it is imperative that the drugs and guns that come into the country be confiscated before they arrive at street level, and the model citizens who are involved in these trades that has the capacity to destroy societies. be prosecuted to the full extent of the law regardless of who they are.

The war on crime must take place on every level and in every community. It must involve, not just the police and the criminals but the business community and the country as a whole. How can you live in a country where you are a prisoner in your own home, afraid of being killed or kidnapped at any time of night or day? The fact is that resources and opportunities must be made available so that everyone can feel that they have a stake in the development of the country. Failure to adopt an all-inclusive strategy would only exacerbate the situation.

In essence …for what will it profit a nation, if it gains the whole world and suffer the loss of its freedom and internal security to escalating crime and increasing violence?

Trinidad and Tobago News

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