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Protective Barriers: a community response to gang violence Port-au-Prince

  • May 8, 2024
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Protective Barriers: a community response to gang violence in the metropolitan region of Port-au-Prince.

In a desperate effort to protect themselves against rising gang violence, residents of several areas of the Port-au-Prince metropolitan region have erected barriers to better control the passage of pedestrians, vehicles and motorcycles in their neighborhoods. These barricades have become a daily reality for many residents, providing a temporary sense of security in an increasingly unstable environment.

The motivations behind these actions are clear: to protect families, children, and property from the devastation caused by gangs who often operate with impunity. For many, these barriers represent a last defense against violence that seems out of control. “We are obliged to erect this barrier in the area. Gangs continue to spread their tentacles and we are not safe here. This is why all the residents contributed to erecting this barrier to better control the area against any gang invasion,” said a young man who lives on Rue Momplaisir.

However, this measure is not without its critics. Some view it as a form of private justice, thereby eroding state authority and exacerbating social tensions. In addition, these barricades hinder the movement of people and goods. “It was the failure of the state and the impotence of our leaders that brought about this result. In almost every neighborhood you pass through you find a barrier controlled by the population who do not feel safe from gang violence, this shows that we do not live in a normal country (…) Because of the “inability of the State to restore order, people decide to impose their own laws in their neighborhoods,” criticized a fifty-year-old.

Yet for those who live daily with the constant threat of gang violence, the barriers offer a sense of control over their own destiny. They symbolize the resilience and determination of a community to defend itself in extreme circumstances. “The barrier erected at the entrance to the neighborhood is very useful. I feel safer because there is a Surveillance Brigade which protects the area against the threat of gangs,” says a mother who lives near Quisqueya University.

Ultimately, protective barriers are the product of a community desperate for solutions to a complex and persistent problem. Their existence highlights the urgency of concerted action to ensure the security and well-being of all citizens of Port-au-Prince, while addressing the deep roots of the violence that threatens their daily lives.
The question remains: what is the role of the authorities concerned in all this?

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