Jamaica has had issues with crime for some time. Gangs, which were once the playthings of powerful politicians following universal adult suffrage, were bolstered and given powerful arms as the nation descended to near civil war in the 70s.

However, as the smoke of that civil war cleared and the politicians no longer found a need for the gangs as they did in the old days because ideological differences had been ironed out, gangs began to operate on their own, amassing arsenals and money independent of the politician.

That is the cliff note history of our gang and crime problems, much has been omitted but that is really the main takeaway, we are a country in which gangsterism, and politics are intimately twined.

This brings us to today, where politicians bleat about the war on crime, tackling crime and crime plans. Our politicians make it seem that those who are committing these heinous crimes are idiots, people not thinking straight and people who have lost their mind/soul even and while those make good soundbites, they do not come close to the truth or core issues which lead people to crime.

The crime plan, the much-touted instrument which according to the government will see us living in peace is just a tired rehash of what was done in the 80s-00s. that is this is made up of empowering the police to act in whatever way they choose, lock up individuals en masse and hope that this leads to a downturn in murders.

Everyone likes to believe that those who commit crimes, that is the scammers, drug dealers and gun runners, are foolish, the dregs who for whatever reason have not trod the legal path that the rest of us have. There is a sense of moral superiority, and paternalism, which comes with treating crime which blinds us to certain realities.

One major reality which is well-known but largely unspoken is that entering a life of crime, specifically, scamming is probably the smartest move you can make financially. Morally it is abhorrent, but then so is pushing tobacco, alcohol or gambling all of which negatively impact society.

Everyone does cost-benefit analyses during their lives, whether we knowingly do this or simply do it by instinct is neither here nor there.

A simple cost benefit analysis will show that with the current rate of exchange at 154.70 literally one successful call will see you pocketing USD 100 or 2,000 more than the current minimum wage. Conversely, the individual could work in a non-unionised factory, with no holidays or sick leave. They could work in a call centre where their employment status is precarious and the abuse is constant, or they could work in other service industries where the rates and types of abuse are at times unspeakable, and all for less than 100 USD per week.

It may be crass to say, it may ruffle feathers, but from a simple cost benefit standpoint, the criminals are the smart ones whose only mistake it would seem is that they are unable to stop killing themselves and everyone around them.

In a country where the majority leave school unqualified or underqualified, in a country where tertiary education will put you in debt for a decade – if you can find a job to repay the loan, and in a country where the only businesses which seemingly get assistance are those which do not increase productivity, it is, of course, the common sense and logical move to enter a life of crime.

None of this makes it right morally, but as most of us know even if we refuse to accept it, is that morals more often than not have nothing to do with the decisions we make when it comes to survival.

The fact that this crime plan like others is refusing to address this basic fact is evidence that they are not serious about tackling crime.

In tackling crime, across the world, two tactics have been shown to work, high rates of capture and conviction of criminals along with making the committing crime not a financially smart move.

We have woefully failed at the first, with the nation’s clear-up and conviction rates being nothing to write home about, with the society we live in being abusive in its nature along with producing low-paying jobs we have forced people to make the logical decision and engage in crime.

After 20 years it should be clear that jobs such as those found in the call centre and the hotel are not the route to prosperity and a life free from crime. Rather, they are the harbingers of a society unable to offer anything meaningful to its people in terms of a future and is therefore no surprise that in those same 20 years, the rate of violence has not just increased but also got more vicious.

We have treated people like animals in terms of housing, education and pay and act surprised when people take the logical step of moving to a life of crime rather than accept their lot of a harsh and unforgiving work life and an early grave. We have created a system where those in power still cling on to the connections, they have with gangsters offering them protection for payment and act shocked when people steer clear from a life on the straight and narrow. Those in power are either idiots or just don’t care and I think we all know what the answer is even if it makes us uncomfortable.

If we want to tackle crime the solution remains the same as it was 20 years ago. We must create a society which looks after each other, a society that pays people a liveable wage, that houses people in decent conditions, provides quality education and a justice system that actually catches criminals as opposed to what we have now. We must address the fact that a criminal lifestyle is a sensible option these people have taken and must now work to ensure that the criminal lifestyle becomes unattractive.

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