Over the past year the nation has been hollering for action to stem the seemingly irreversible rise in crime. After years of seeing the crime rate (led by murders) decline – coincidentally after Dudus was extradited and a heavy military/police presence was evident – we have seen crime rise back to its monstrous heights.
The Government has come out with some interesting strategies to fight crime, but in order to do that we must accept some basic truths. We all bear some responsibility for the breakdown of the state. We all, in some way, have allowed our society to reach the rapacious heights of decadence over a long period of time. It will take a long time to repair, but it can be done.
Family planning is the first area that must be addressed. Without proper family planning, not only will we be ignoring a factor in crime, but we will also be doing a disservice to our population. The matter here is the availability of abortions. The plain, harsh reality when it comes to abortion is that it happens regularly in Jamaica – some with actual doctors or proper medication, but most often it is a ‘back alley’ operation.
The rich, who copulate as much as the poor, can afford the safe abortions so their daughters can continue in school while the poor daughter must have the child who remains in poverty and becomes more susceptible to criminal conduct.
A simple unsavory fact that is little spoken of lately is that the poor can ill afford a family of four to six children. Condoms must be made more easily available (Lord knows they are cheap enough) and sex education must be taught in the schools. More access to family planning areas/tools and some decriminalization of abortion, as ugly as it sounds, would go a far way to the long-term reduction of crime.
Education also needs a serious change if we are to tame the monster that is crime, because an educated person is far less likely to commit crime than an uneducated person. But not just any form of education. It is evident that the current style of education is not working. The constant rote and teaching for tests in an unseen way lends itself to crime. If people enter school and fail from primary to high and graduate with little skills then they are more open for a life of criminality.
Instead, we should be teaching critical thinking and problem-solving in our schools. With this, not only would the grades (I believe) skyrocket, therefore feeding into better employment opportunities, but we would also see a long-term reduction in crime as people no longer react with base instinct and shoot or kill a man for a perceived slight and the smallest of “disses”.
Education is the great equalizer. It in some ways levels the classes and that is very necessary now, as a big part of our crime issue revolves around class. Those who are poor are often left to wander in the ‘non-traditional’ schools, graduate without subjects, and then look to crime to survive, while those of means send their kids to the ‘traditional’ schools where they graduate with subjects and are less likely to be lured to a life of crime.
If the nation is to truly fight crime, then jobs must be near the top of any agenda. But not just any job, as we know that a man working for ‘tupence’ is more open to the idea of crime to survive than the man who is paid well. This example can be seen all over the place where petty crime feeds into major crime. Take scamming – a university graduate takes a job paying J$40k a month and incentives are capped at ridiculously low limits. Is it any surprise that they take the US$100 a week for the social security numbers? In construction a security guard is paid at a limit so low that it’s embarrassing. Is it any surprise that they then pass on information to the local strongman so that they can ‘eat a food’?
No, it is not surprising. It is just common sense, and those who don’t see it and pursue the path of Jamaica becoming a hub for the service sector will only be welcoming more ingenious forms of crime. We need to instead push for a technology and pharmaceutical industry in this nation. If the Government and the state technocrats who visited Israel took anything away from that trip, it should be that Israel came out of the economic wreck of the 70s, almost all due to it switching its economy to one focused on pharmaceuticals and technology (see the drone that was partially birthed in Israel).
The black/informal market is another area that must be dealt with if we are to hold back this tidal wave of crime as criminals will always thrive in an environment lacking laws. It is common knowledge that many members of the informal sector are ‘taxed’ by thugs for protection, and that this ‘tax’ is used to then further arm and strengthen these criminals. Imagine if these street hawkers and traders were to be formalized and brought into the open economy?
The template, no matter how messy, has already been laid with hand carts now having to be licensed in order to operate. Couldn’t the same tools be adjusted and used, thus depriving criminals of money while flooding the coffers of the municipal corporations?
As it relates to the JPs, we are at last seeing some progress in that department, but more still needs to be done. Allow the JP actual power of detention and trial. Increase the number of district constables. This should go a long way towards the lowering of crime as most criminals begin life with petty crimes that could be dealt with on a parochial basis.
Then we come to the prison system, which is still in a state of shambles. We have prisons that are chronically overcrowded and in such a rundown state that calling them ruins would belittle the term. How can we expect to cure the crime problem if petty criminals leave prison as hardened and learned criminals? A new prison must be built and fast, if we are to truly tame the crime beast.
Finally, if we are to truly put a lasting dent in crime, then the teachings of Marcus Garvey must be taught in schools. A prime driver behind crime is the sense of alienation that our young black men in particular are suffering. They are of the belief that black isn’t beautiful and, most importantly, they have no sense of self-worth.
With a true emphasis on Garvey and his ideas of self-worth and mental emancipation I am sure that we would in a short period of time reap the rewards planted in these young people.
Something must be done, but piecemeal change is not good enough. We all know the issues affecting our nation and we know the solutions too. Let us take the bull by the horns and make a lasting dent in crime or conversely we can sit and whine as we are overrun by crime. The choice is ours.