Beyond (and before) the crime data

Beyond (and before) the crime data


Monday, January 19, 2015

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BY Louis EA Moyston

In recent months there have been reports on crime and related matters laden with statistics. It is important to go beyond the statistical data to look to the root of the crisis in crime in the Jamaican society Going beyond the data has to do with analysis and interpretation to make sense of the data within the context of something.

The statistical data cannot explain the nature of crime. It establishes what happened when and where. The discussion about crime, its increase and decrease, should include the ways in which the society is organised and matters concerning intervention into communities that are associated with the generation of criminals and criminal activities. If there is very early intervention in these areas, there will be no need to worry about "at-risk" youth.

The quantitative approach must be complimented with other approaches embracing experimental and qualitative data. As long as we are wasted in persistent poverty, urban decay is not reversed, and informal communities continue to grow at alarming rate in urban and rural areas, plus crime will continue to grow.

Inner-city life

I have heard the head of that agency related to child development spewing data on problems relating to children. She failed to make sense of the data, however.

It must be stated clearly that not all people in the inner cities are the same. Some of these 'enclaves' are products of urban decay of traditional towns and residential areas, others have emerged from development of informal communities. There are, in those areas, parents who work hard; some walking their children to school in the morning; others keeping their children inside as they try to "grow them differently". It is noted from time to time, and in different inner city communities, that more than often, those children that are kept inside, and under effective parental guidance, become successful. The issues of good moral conduct at home and a sense of the importance of education will help.

In many of homes in the inner city good behaviour and the value of education are not embraced and cherished. This charge is not just blaming the 'victims'. Some parents do not have the basic qualities to raise children. There are some problems that are beyond the control of some parents, such as the 'language problem' and space to facilitate homework and study activities.

The most difficult of the problems is the one associated with the quality of the parents in many inner-city communities and their negative influence on their children. The children, at times, are so influenced by their environment that they replicate that kind of behaviour at school and other school-related activities. Many students who do not seem to have a clue why they are attending school.

I have had deep inquiries in more than a few inner-city enclaves, and I have observed good things and some bad things. The latter concerns us most and must be treated with emotion because the problem is great. I have seen boys, especially, started out as beggars, and how they graduated to becoming thieves when begging could no longer work. And, more than often, they become gunmen who kill and are then killed.

It began from an environment where no one, or very few, people are employed and carry out basic human responsibilities: pay rent, taxes; regularly provide food, clothes, and basic comfort for children. There is a case where say 20 persons, adults and children, live in a space with two small bedrooms and also a very small living room. None of the adults in the 'yard' work. Most times the children do not go to school. When they are at home they have to 'fend' for themselves. This involves petty stealing. The adults do not ask where they get the money or goods. A life of neglect, extreme hardship at home, a life street hustling from very early produce young and hard core criminals. Could this be the kind of background that will help to answer the question how could two 16-year-old boys plan from jail to rob people, and then allegedly rob and kill a female retiree? What is the nature of their criminal records? It is important to have the social worker network that can explore and examine this situation and intervene them from early, before they become "at-risk ki ds". There are areas that are crucibles for the incubation of criminals and we must not be emotional about this occurrence on rural and urban areas.

The language of...

Lastly, the issue of language in a most neglected cultural problem for a country boasting 50 and more years of Independence. Not all people from the inner cities have a language problem; but most do. I have had this experience of speaking to some inner-city residents and they keep on asking "Weh yuh seh, weh yuh seh?" I thought it was a hearing problem, but, no, it is a language issue.

It is my thinking that this is one of the reasons for our poor academic performance and persistent underdevelopment. Last year there was a published report about young criminals and the high schools they attended. This article suggests a relation between the language problem and those attendees of high schools that end up committing crime.

The United Nations, informed by a committee that met here in Jamaica 2011, called for official recognition for Jamaican Patois and, by implication, develop the kind of strategies for its speakers -- the majority of the people in this country -- to learn the language that informs the system of education. The aGovernment must be brought before the United Nations for flouting internationals laws regarding creole language. This cultural issue is a major factor associated with crime and underdevelopment.

Use of data is one thing, but making sense of that data is another. It is only the making sense of the data that can help to treat the problem. There must be continuous research in these areas of parents who cannot maintain and send their children to school. Somebody will have to take responsibility for them before they become "at risk" or young hard core criminals. The figures don't tell the full story.

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