Let's deal with the root cause of crime

Michael Burke

Thursday, October 04, 2012    

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The horrendous crime in St James where five women who were raped, including an eight-year-old girl, is a topic that might be more than a nine-day wonder this time around. I am of the opinion that rape is a crime of hate and never a crime of ordinary lust. Whenever the perpetrators are brought to justice if they survive to that time, I am sure that the law will have its course. But clearly that is not enough. The society has to change or the problem will come up again.

The argument of those who want the death penalty for the perpetrators is that they will not be able to do that again. That is very true, provided that the actual perpetrators are caught. However, only those who would get the death penalty would not do it again because it has not always been a deterrent.

The late John Maxwell used to remind his readers that in the Middle Ages in England pickpockets were hanged in the market and while that was taking place, pockets were being picked. His opinion was that the only deterrent is fear of being caught.

It is therefore incumbent upon the police to make the criminals know that they will be caught. Unfortunately, it is quite clear that they have not been able to convince the criminal element that they will be caught despite all the radio and TV advertisements. Still, even if they will be caught, there has to be a plan in place to create a country where people will not become prone to criminality.

It is like going to a doctor. Usually, the doctor's first move is to stop the pain. Then he goes to what needs to be done to make sure that either the complaint does not return or at least does not do so for a very long time, if possible. At least, that is my layman's reading of the method of medical doctors, having been on an operating table four times in my life so far.

Bringing the criminals to justice deals with the pain alone. But there needs to be some surgery, or the problem will keep recurring. Look at what has been done since 1966 when there was a limited state of emergency for western Kingston.

In 1974 there was the establishment of the Gun Court. Then between 1976 to 1977 there was a year-long state of emergency. Later there was the Suppression of Crime Act.

Throughout all that time from 1966 there have been "curfews upon curfews upon curfews". Like a cold that keeps recurring, cough medicine alone is clearly not enough. And what we have been applying to our crime over the last 50 or so years is, in a manner of speaking, "cough medicine".

What have we done to stop the corrupt "Henry Morgan" culture that goes back to the days of the governorship of that pirate? What have we done to insist on healthy family life? This is not to belittle the efforts of individuals who have done a lot and who have been frustrated because there has not been sufficient will on the part of successive governments to see to it that the laws are enforced or to put more teeth into the law.

So all youngsters go to high school these days. But what sort of values are being inculcated in the schools? Why are there not more boarding schools to enforce a certain discipline in a nation? Why have there not been more programmes to promote unity in the community and in employee share ownership?

Why haven't the citizens in this supposedly democratic nation insisted that these things be done? Is it because they do not really want them to be done or are not mature enough to do what is needed? I have often written that one of my hobbies is to phone someone I know, read something to him or her, and ask them to guess when it was written. Usually they say it was written last year, five years ago or even 10 years ago. When I tell them that it was written in 1948 or 1950 they marvel.

And it is the same with the crime problem. As someone who is constantly doing research and is addicted to old newspapers and magazines, I never cease to be amazed that the crime problem and its solutions have been written about for several decades or even centuries, complete with all the proposed solutions that we still hear about.

But in Jamaica we have a "chatocracy" (a word whose coinage is attributed to Delano Franklyn). And the "chatocracy" does not really want to take the necessary steps to curb crime. Real development has nothing to do with infrastructure and tall buildings. It has to do with advancing people. It was Pope Paul Vl who wrote that there will be no peace without development.

In Jamaica it means the development of family life, the development of the collective and individual conscience and the development of real social justice where every Jamaican citizen can have real shares in the commanding heights of the economy. It also means recognition that men are men and women are women and that both should respect the gender role of each other as well as each other's natural and constitutional rights.





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