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Crime as a source of poverty

Monday, September 25, 2017

Such is the effect of crime that it is easy to get caught up in individual atrocities — reports of which darken the lives of Jamaicans on a daily basis.

An unending stream of media reports constantly reminds us of multiple murders and - such as is told in yesterday's Sunday Observer about the situation in downtown Kingston - thieves targeting hard-working people.

In the latter case it is clear that the authorities dropped the ball following the joint security forces operation into West Kingston in 2010. They unseated the 'don' Mr Christopher “Dudus” Coke but the vacuum created was obviously not properly filled with crime-reducing social development initiatives.

Hence the complaints from residents and business operators downtown that when the unseated dons, Mr Coke and Mr Donald 'Zeeks' Phipps, held sway, “everybody coulda walk in peace and do dem business”.

The State, they complain, did not pay enough attention to taking control of the space and now numerous petty criminals are on the loose.

That's a scenario that the authorities are obviously seeking to prevent recurring as they set about the zones of special operations (ZOSO) — the first of which is ongoing in Mount Salem, St James.

The point we want to make, however, is that disorder, such as is being reported in downtown Kingston, and the various individual atrocities, are all part of a whole criminal package which undermines society and economy.

Business leaders in Mandeville were reminded of this recently at a forum where so-called experts pointed to the multi-dimensional nature of crime and its negative effects on all areas.

We note the comments from Lieutenant Commander George Overton, a director at Guardsman Security who told of employees complaining of being sleep-deprived because of gunshots in their communities at nights. We don't need to be told that can cause a downward slide in production.

Then there are industrious farmers who just can't bother and simply pull out of agriculture because of the threat posed by farm thieves. What's the point of putting your all into an enterprise if in the end it is the thieves who benefit?

In the bauxite/alumina industry, so much is being spent on protecting fuel, metals, tools, and the like from thieves that the profit margin could be affected. Such considerations could lead to investors pulling out of Jamaica or changing their minds about bringing their money here.

We are told that the same principle applies to the thriving business process outsourcing centres, since such operations often require a 24-hour work schedule. If crime is at such a state that the night shift becomes unviable then the investors will go elsewhere.

Imagine the many Jamaicans with resources, who simply don't bother to invest in production because of the risk of criminal intervention?

It's not for nothing that the International Monetary Fund and other multilateral lenders, with varying degrees of subtlety, keep emphasisng the need for Jamaicans and their Government to bring crime under control. Ultimately, the very viability of the nation is at stake.