Crime-fighting more than minister and commissioner
In the early 1990s the West Indies Cricket Team, after almost two decades of dominance of international cricket, found itself struggling among the minnows of the game. After appointing and subsequently replacing a number of team captains, in quick succession, the board finally recognised what should have been obvious from the very beginning.
The declining fortunes of our team had little to do with the captain per se, but rather was the consequence of a multiplicity of factors, including the regional decline in interest in the game, competition from shorter and more lucrative sports, the absence of planning during the years of dominance, and the dearth of talent within the team. Success, they correctly concluded, would be achieved not through the perpetuation of the policy of hiring and firing team captains, but only through the methodical, sustained, long-term effort to correct those factors which were undermining our game.
When I look at Jamaica's crime problem and the current calls for the resignation of the Owen Ellington, commissioner of police, and Peter Bunting, minister of national security, I see parallels with the history of our cricket. And what are we but fools if we do not learn from our history?
It is apparent that the daunting problems with crime in Jamaica, just like those with our cricket, transcend any one particular individual, such as the commissioner of police or the minister of national security, any single institution, such as the police force, and even any single crime plan or piece of legislation. Once we recognise that God and Satan did not conspire to allow more intrinsically "bad men" to be born in Jamaica than anywhere else in the world, then we must conclude that crime in Jamaica is the result of a confluence of social, economic, cultural and political factors, including the debilitating poverty of the masses; a lack of education and of opportunities for upward mobility; joblessness; indiscipline; absence of strong morals and family and national values; dysfunctional homes, especially the epidemic of male absenteeism and of boys growing up without fathers or positive male role models; a culture which glamorises violence; a growing sense of disenchantment with the State; as well as desperation and frustration throughout the society.
Given such circumstances, even the best, brightest and most competent of leaders anywhere in the world would struggle to achieve significant results in crime reduction. It is imperative that we recognise that taming the monster of crime will not be achieved by continuing to hire, then fire, a succession of commissioners of police and/or ministers of national security. Nor will it be achieved through short-term crime plans, political manoeuvres or initiatives. Instead, the solution rests entirely with our people.
What is required is a critical mass of our citizens becoming actively involved in sustained, systematic, long-term interventions aimed at correcting those factors which are driving crime. In assisting our fellow Jamaicans, from all walks of life, to also achieve a higher standard of living and in ensuring that they too are able to live lives of decency, dignity, comfort and enlightenment, we will be making the best possible investment in our own safety, security, well-being and quality of life in the years, decades and centuries to come.