Crime: Our inflection point needs a change of approach

Crime scene tape
Crime scene tape (Photo credit: Kat Wilcox)

It is my view that Jamaica has found itself at an inflection point as far as crime and violence is concerned. I make this pronouncement against the background of the island’s continued use of the same failed strategies, over the years, which have only succeeded in the deepening of what has become the island’s violence culture and, with it, the continued retardation of the social and economic fortunes of the country, not to mention its deepening inability to guarantee the safety of its population.

On any given day in Jamaica, at the very minimum, four people are murdered. The social and investigative statistics indicates that seven out of every ten murders are gang related while the remaining three murders are domestic related. Regardless of the circumstances which generated these killings, social investigators have theorized that an inability among Jamaicans to work through disputes, accompanied by a growing disregard for the value of each other’s lives, has become the major driver of the island’s punishing murder problem. According to police and social reports, nearly 80 per cent of reported murder victims are males, with a median age of 22 years. Most are victims of gang/turf wars, born out of the most minor disputes, and very often the original reason for the conflict remains a mystery to the current protagonists.  

It is my belief that the time has come for the application of different strategic approaches to addressing and breaking the gang culture in Jamaica. This requires a multi-strategic approach which will involve a direct appeal to Jamaican youngsters within the age range of 10 to 18 years, tapping directly into the cohort from which gang recruitment is targeted. At the same time, state, local and other private agencies will need to resource communities including schools, central to which would include the expansion of material and human resources as well as providing lunches. Research has shown that a child that is attending school is 10 times less likely to be recruited into a gang. Moreover, a child who has a guarantee of a daily lunch meal is 8-10 times more likely to maintain his/her attendance in school resulting in a shunning of gang activities and is more likely to actively participate in classroom activities.

The second strategy involves the use of a two-pronged approach which includes teaching our youngsters how to resolve conflicts coupled with employing mentors throughout the school system. All around us we are surrounded by people of influence, and this is even more so among our youth population. They speak the same language and maintain largely similar interests. Young people are more likely to be influenced by their own peers, and, it goes without saying, that the more successful that influencer is, the more likely that person is to have a positive influence on members of his/her peer group. As one famous media commentator recently stated, “In Jamaica, influence-peddling tun-up,” courtesy of the island’s thriving music and entertainment as well as its sports industries.

The success of numerous secondary schools in turning out sports stars, including football players and track athlete,s who have transited into the professional ranks makes sporting personalities perfect peer influencers who are easily relatable to other younger Jamaicans. I believe that we must harness these young Jamaicans of influence and solicit their help with taking a positive message towards these violence and potential death producers who are youngsters themselves. Their message is simple – “Stop, you are killing yours and the country’s future!”

The success of such efforts would certainly depend on a parallel programme of remediation of at-risk communities, requiring combinations of state and private financial resources for investment in rebuilding these communities. I believe that while growing numbers of individuals from similarly affected communities have made good, it may not be the same for others with weaker poles of influence. It is true in some respects as stated by Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce that, “It is not our circumstances that holds us back but rather our decisions… Not only does it take focus and discipline; it takes so much self-belief to fuel a dream.” I do believe in providing the pillars upon which the individual’s self-belief can be cultivated and, ultimately, upon which those dreams can be raised.

 For more than three decades, we have been empowering our police and military with elevated authority and increased supplies of high-powered weaponry in what we have for decades labelled as the fight against crime. The results have always been that the viciousness of these criminals have only escalated, over time, buffeted by the proceeds from multiple strands of connected illegal activities including lotto-scamming, drug trafficking, gun running, and extortion. Contrary to the belief held by some in our society that we can kill our way out of the problem, that ship has long sailed and with it any evidence of any coordinated efforts at the state level to rehabilitate these beleaguered communities.

This may just be a last roll of the proverbial dice.  

Richard Hugh Blackford B.Sc., M.S. (Ed)

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *