CARICOM Regional Task Force on Crime and Security

The Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), at its Twenty-Second Meeting held in Nassau, The Bahamas in July 2001, expressed concern over the new forms of crime and violence that continue to pose threats to the Region's security. These new forms of crime have implications for individual safety and the social and economic well-being of the Region as a whole. The Heads agreed to establish a Regional Task Force on Crime and Security to examine the major causes of crime, and to recommend approaches to deal with the inter-related problems of crime, illicit drugs and firearms, as well as terrorism. The Task Force, chaired by Mr. Lancelot Selman of Trinidad and Tobago, comprised representatives from each of the Member States, the Regional Security System (RSS), the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police, the University of the West Indies (UWI), and the Regional Secretariats (CARICOM and the OECS).

Due to the events of September 11, 2001, the Task Force was only able to commence its work in November, 2001. Five meetings were held between November last year and May this year. The work programme of the Task Force was facilitated by six sub-committees that followed up on specific issue areas via e-mail, teleconferencing and regular meetings of the Task Force.

In establishing its framework, the Task Force recognised that security threats, concerns and other challenges in the hemispheric context are multi-dimensional in nature and scope. It was also recognised that the traditional ways of meeting the challenges needed to be expanded to encompass new non-traditional threats, which include political, economic, social, health and environmental aspects. Given the mandate of the Heads of Government however, the Task Force confined itself to a definition of security, which in essence encompassed governance. Specifically, the concept referred to a state or condition, in which, within the context of a constitutional framework, freedom is enjoyed without fear of victimisation from crime and in which the functioning of governance by a constitutionally elected government is not inhibited or disrupted through criminal activity.

The Task Force therefore established its areas of focus as follows:

  • Issues relative to the underlying causes and sources of crime: to comprehend the causes of crime, especially in its newer manifestations, that have resulted in escalating fear and panic, with implications for law and order as well as economic prospects, social stability and the general morale of Member States
  • Initiatives against activities that pose a direct security threat to the Region: to examine the interconnected nature of the newer forms of crime, which involve illicit drugs and arms, money laundering, and tourism, with a view to proposing policies that would meet the challenges facing Member States and the Region as a whole
  • Multilateral initiatives for international security in respect of which the Region is committed to participating as co-victims of transnational crime; to build capacity through institutional strengthening, shared surveillance and other forms of cooperation among Member States, and between CARICOM. the wider Caribbean and the international community

In examining the wide range and complex issues surrounding the causes of crime, the Task Force considered among others, the following factors: poverty, unemployment, social marginalisation and inequality, the illegal drug trade, corruption, the trafficking of firearms, deportation of criminals and the ineffectiveness of the existing criminal justice systems.

Why would young women risk their lives daily by swallowing packets of cocaine, as drug mules from the Caribbean to North America and Europe? Why would a young man risk losing his life by being shot for stealing tyres to feed his drug habit? Why should the car owner feel justified in equating that young man's life to four tyres? Should drug abuse be seen as a criminal act or is it a health problem? Are the values we embrace in society in contradiction to our laws? Are traditional methods of policing effective in crime prevention? The Task Force has grappled with these and many other questions, in formulating its recommendations. The report contains over a hundred recommendations which have been reviewed by a joint committee of Attorneys-General and Ministers with responsibility for national security, and was presented to the Conference of Heads of Government at their Twenty-third Meeting in Georgetown, Guyana, 3-5 July 2002.

To read  Report of CARICOM Regional Task Force on Crime and Security, September 2002

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