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Crime and Virgin Islands society

By Dickson Igwe, Contributor

Fighting crime in the Virgin Islands without factoring in the cultural and social element will end in complete failure.
Crime fighters must understand the values sets that drive the numerous communities that make up the Virgin Islands.

The Virgin Islands is not one community. It is a community of parallel communities with a dominant native culture that is getting weaker as a result of migration and US media.

Crime fighters have to understand the DNA of Virgin Islands society in order to succeed. The Virgin Islands police officer has to be a social worker, community activist, and law enforcer, rolled into one.

Now, a caveat is appropriate for the proceeding narrative. This story in no way impugns the excellent efforts by the Virgin Islands Commissioner of Police, an excellent professional, his staff, and cadre of officers. The police force is doing its very best in most difficult circumstances.

However there are issues of culture and society in the British Virgin Islands that makes the task of the police a very difficult and thankless one.

OK. The greatest detective in history was a creation of English Author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Sherlock Holmes, stated in a “Study in Scarlet’’ that “the world was full of obvious things that no one observed.’’

Holmes believed that there was “a clear distinction between seeing and observing”. Seeing was a mainly biological function. Observing was both biological and psychological.

Holmes was a master at the science of deduction: removing irrelevant matters and excess, to arrive at truth.
For Holmes nothing was “more deceptive than an obvious fact’’. In the fight against crime, data and information was the beginning and ending for the world’s greatest investigator.

Data was the raw material in the fight against crime for Holmes. Holmes described data as the bricks that made up the building. Holmes was a genius at putting together what appeared to be non-connected data and information, to form a full and meaningful narrative.

Fully understanding the narrative was the most important element in the fight against crime for the Great Detective.
Successfully combating the crime problem in the BVI therefore requires an understanding of the “Crime Octopus’’.

It also demands a full and comprehensive understanding of the society. Holmes understood that the knowledge of the environment of crime was the most important factor and component for success.

Holmes both was practical and cerebral: a rare combination of virtues. The Great Man was a scientist, historian, philosopher, anthropologist, and a profound reader and researcher.

Holmes – who was completely self-taught- not only observed what happened around the crime scene, he looked for the invisible. He looked for that all important pin in the haystack.

Holmes looked deeply into his own mind, soul, and persona, to better understand the externalities.

Holmes was a deep thinker. He solved the most difficult cases through acute observation. He built his case brick by brick.

Upon completion of the building, and after the plumbing and wiring was installed, and the building occupied, only then was the mystery understood. The why became because.

The solution was discovered, and acted upon. The file was closed. The criminal was apprehended, or taken out of life’s many equations.

Deduction began in Holmes’s mind. But it was deduction linked with a comprehensive knowledge of the environment. Fighting crime was both a tangible and an intangible affair. It demanded the assessment and analysis of multiple variables and hypotheses.

Holmes had photographic memory. Holmes possessed a formidable personal archive. Every case was an opportunity to learn something new.

He was a chronic recorder of events and facts. He was an encyclopedia on two feet.

Holmes used his formidable perception, and deductive capabilities, in bringing together the preceding factors into the fight against crime. Holmes was wildly eccentric.

But he was frequently successful in detecting crime, and bringing the criminal to book.

Fighting crime is first and foremost about intelligence. But it is about intelligence of not simply the criminal and his activities.

The crime fighter must understand his and her own composites and weaknesses. The crime fighter’s thinking has to be panoramic and specific, internal and external. In fact, paradox is a major element of crime and the fight against crime.

Holmes understood this fact to a fault. Frequently he used self-knowledge, self-deprecation, irony, and paradox, to embarrass the police who he worked closely with as an independent investigator.

Holmes understood clearly the social and cultural environment within which he operated.

Holmes was the quintessential wit: the great Renaissance man, and a veritable Bohemian. He was enigmatic and a great master of disguise. He understood the criminal mind without succumbing to the temptations of crime.

Holmes’s conscience remained pure through his career as an investigator.
Students of Arthur Conan Doyles’s Sherlock Holmes will understand that the cultural and social composites in fighting crime in the BVI are the key ingredient for success.

Mastering these composites requires a full understanding of the cultural antecedents in the BVI community. Without the former, any hope of progress in the fight against crime is going to be frustrated.

Crime starts and ends in the community. Even when it originates outside the borders of the BVI, crime has to receive community support to spread its deadly tentacles.

What are these “antecedents’’ and “composites?’’ The first antecedent is the fact that the BVI was once a homogeneous agrarian community. This was pre the 1980s.

Then the need for migrant labour from sister Caribbean islands was the result of a swift changeover from an agrarian and fishing community to a 21st Century financial services and tourism economy.

That dynamic destroyed the Virgin Islands village. The village in earlier days protected, nurtured, and provided the norms, values and culture that drove the community.

The BVI is no longer one single community. It is a number of communities who attempt to live cordially side by side.
There is the native community that goes back generations. The Latina community is as native to the Virgin Islands as is the community that came out of slavery, colonialism, and nationalism.

The links with the Latino community go back to the days Virgin Islanders left these shores to work in Santo Doming and Cuba.

There are the new arrivals and residents from “down islands’’. There is the African, Asian and Syrian community. And there is the British, Europea, and United States Caucasian community, which will include Australians white South Africans.

Virgin Islands communities tend to socialize and communicate within specific social, ethnic, and racial boundaries. This is a fact many will deny as it goes against politically correct sensibilities.

It remains a fact of the society, however. Integration is not effortless. It takes effort to bring communities together.
Virgin Islands communities have been thrown together by geography, migration and economics. They all possess distinct cultures. They tend to socialize within their own boundaries.

Their first loyalty is to their own community, even before loyalty to the Virgin Islands as a unified country.
There have been attempts to integrate the various communities. Organizations such as Rotary and Government are key to bringing communities together.

However, there is a limit at integrating the various cultural, social, and ethnic subsets in the Virgin Islands that have been the result of migration, economics, and even colonial history.

The reasons for the limits are too complex to place in a short article.

But here lies the crux of the matter. Unsolved murders are at the heart of a culture of secrecy that derives from a Virgin Islands of multiple communities.

This culture of numerous cultures makes cooperation with the police complex and multifaceted. The Virgin Islands is no longer a homogeneous community.

In a simpler time the criminal would have easily been detected and justice meted out through a village dynamic in which everyone was linked by blood and land.

There was nowhere to run for the criminal. Policing is simpler in homogeneous, cohesive, communities: The Scandinavian Model.

In a divided community many residents will prefer to share secrets and narratives that could solve crime with their kith and kin rather than law enforcement.

Residents trust their families and close friends in the community, to safeguard their concerns and fears, over and above law enforcement, many who are not native.

It has been said numerous times, people know who the criminals are. But they are unwilling to do what it takes to bring them to book.

The reason is simple: preserving the family, immediate and extended, and one’s own perception of community, may require not reporting a family member, no matter how tragic the crime.

In a divided community, preserving loyalty to one’s own perceived community subset is more important than bringing the son, brother, cousin, and father, who is a murderer and criminal to book.

The solution lies in greater efforts and greater creativity in data, information, and intelligence gathering, based on the unique multi communities Virgin Islands model.

It will take a Sherlock Holmes to detect and apprehend a well-protected criminal in such a culture.

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