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    Preventing Gun Violence In the Caribbean 

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    How does one define gun violence? A simple connotation of gun violence is that it is the foremost cause of premature death in the United States and kills more than 40,000 people and cause almost 90,000 injuries each year. The issue of gun violence is intricate and deeply engrained in our culture, which is why it is of the most importance to take a public health approach in guaranteeing our families and communities are safe. Although gun violence cannot be eliminated, as a societal issue it can be prevented by the implication of more crime prevention programs and interventions, countries signing the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development and stricter firearms prohibitions on high risk groups.

    There are many people who see the Caribbean through naively tinted glasses and perceive it as an island getaway filled with sandy beaches, cocktails, and suntans that will live on in discomfiture. However, it is important to remember that these islands are not merely tourist attractions. They are living, breathing islands with the same crime and violence that every other country in the world experiences. Some might see this a bad thing, and the thought of not coming to the Caribbean might cross one’s mind. This fact is a not an excuse to avoid exploring the splendor of what the Caribbean has to offer, but one should also be cognizant and aware of the dangers that are out there. According to the latest statistics, Honduras, with 92 murders per 100,000 population, and Jamaica, with 40.9 murders per year per 100,000 people; are among the nations with the highest murder rates in the world, although Jamaica’s homicide rate has declined somewhat in recent years.

    Other destinations in the Caribbean region with murder rates significantly higher than the United States include: the St. Kitts and Nevis with 38 per 100,000, Guatemala with 38 per 100,000, Trinidad and Tobago with 35 per 100,000, Bahamas with 27.4 per 100,000, Puerto Rico with 26 per 100,000 and the U.S. Virgin Islands with 39 murders per 100,000. According to the latest available data, the murder rate in the United States was 4.7 per 100,000 population. Caribbean destinations with murder rates about the same as that in the U.S. include Martinique, Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Cuba, Guadeloupe, Haiti, and Turks & Caicos. The rest of the Caribbean nations fall somewhere in the middle according to data from the United Nations.

    A feasible approach to dropping gun violence is to overwhelm illegal gun carrying in areas where gun crime is focused. This strategy involves putting extra patrol resources in suspicious areas and having officers focus on gun detection through traffic stops and pedestrian checks. Studies conducted in cities inside and outside the United States specify that targeted restrictions on illegal gun carrying reduce gun crime significantly and improve individual’s perceptions in battered areas. Police can also improve community support for such efforts by checking area residents in development of such initiatives.

    Another method to decrease gun violence rates is the program “Operation Ceasefire”. Originally developed by the Boston’s Police Department’s Youth Violence Strike Force, Operation Ceasefire is a problem-solving police strategy that seeks to decrease gang violence, illegal gun possession, and gun violence in communities. The goals of the program are to carry out a comprehensive strategy to apprehend and prosecute offenders who carry firearms, to put others on notice that offenders face certain and serious punishment for carrying illegal firearms, and to prevent youths from following the same criminal path. As a deterrence strategy, the intervention assumes that crimes can be prevented when the costs of committing the crime are perceived by the offender to outweigh the benefits of committing a crime. It targets high-risk youths as well as serious and violent juvenile offenders.

    In 1998, The Department of Justice launched SACSI or the Strategic Approach to Community Safety Initiative, to see if Boston’s collective, problem-solving process could be simulated by ten other cities also fighting high rates of violent crime. The SACSI strategies in each city were developed and guided by multi-agency, multidisciplinary core groups, with strong and effective leadership provided by U.S. Attorney’s Offices. Each core group included research partners, and research was well integrated into strategic planning and problem-solving.

    The intervention strategies crossed the range of enforcement to prevention and were implemented by working groups responsible for day-to-day activities. The study found that the SACSI approach, when implemented strongly, is associated with reductions in targeted violent crime in a community, sometimes as much as 50%. Successful elements of the SACSI approach include the leadership provided by U.S. Attorney’s Offices, the integration of research, collaborative strategic planning, and the range of intervention strategies.

    Lastly, another program made to combat gun violence is The Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development. It is a diplomatic initiative aimed at addressing the interrelations between armed violence and development. The Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development represents a high level tactful initiative designed to support states and civil society artists to achieve measurable reductions in the global burden of armed violence in conflict and non-conflict settings by 2015 and beyond. A Core Group consisting of 15 participant states and united organizations is responsible for steering the process and guiding the implementation of the Geneva Declaration. To advance coordinated, clear, and corresponding interventions that are sensitive to national and local truths and needs, the Core Group encourages a holistic approach that includes diplomatic, doctor, and academic components.

    In the event that all these programs might one day prove ineffective and we are left with limited options in reducing gun violence, what are some simple ways to eliminate it gradually? The first thing to do would be to identify the high-risk groups in the Caribbean and promote stricter gun laws on them. This would also be the case for the whole population in its entirety, to avoid a change in risk groups and development of patterns. However, if we consider the high-risk group as a paramount threat, the ability to obtain a gun should be next to impossible to do. Gun violence is one of the problems that we have as human beings living in a world where there is ignorance, lack of communication and individuals with a warped sense of justice. However, with enough patience, time and contribution as a community, gun violence can become a rare occurrence and the Caribbean can truly be considered a paradise.

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