"Police here in Barbados are very, very strict. Wrongdoers get no mercy!” chortles the minibus driver as we cross the island from airport to hotel. “Prison here is kill or cure. Usually kills you, ha ha! But if you do get out you won’t want to go back in again! And that’s the way we like it!”Fair enough. But there's another, perhaps more significant cause for the low crime rate:
“What keeps Barbados law-abiding? Education, education, education,” says Claire Jordan, an earnest young hotel sales manager over breakfast by the beach. “The first thing our government did after independence in 1966 was to introduce free schooling. Anyone who gets straight As at A-level can go to university anywhere in the world and have the government pay for everything.”
She herself went to Heriot-Watt in Edinburgh, then to an école supérieure in France, while her brother went to Harvard. “So everyone’s educated, employment rates are high — and in general that means very little poverty and very low crime. What crime does exist is often committed by other islanders coming here under the new policy in the Caribbean that lets anyone move anywhere, as in the EU.”
Score another point for education in the education vs. security spending debate.
Granted, this is a travel story. The writer got all her information from taxi drivers and hotel clerks on her way to and from the beach. What's more, Barbados is a tiny place - an island 14 miles wide and 21 miles long with just more than a quarter-million people; the approach would be quite expensive to scale up to an American context.
Still, one imagines the intense focus on subsidized education has a lot to do with the low crime rate. You've gotta admit, that's a pretty compelling reason for kids to focus on their education instead of running the streets.
Neighboring Trinidad and Tobago were already on my personal list of places I'd like to visit; perhaps Barbados will get added to the list.