Editorial

High crime rate casts a shadow over Caribbean

Sunday, May 21, 2017

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The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has just released its most recent study on the impact of crime on the Caribbean, which is a reminder of the need to keep our eye on the ball in order to reduce crime, especially through improved economic well-being.The rather compelling findings from the study have special relevance to the region's tourism industry which is, in nearly all cases, the most vibrant industry and the biggest earner of foreign exchange for these countries, as well as the most vulnerable to runaway crime.

In the study, based on a survey of 3,000 crime victims in each of five countries — The Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Jamaica, and Suriname — IDB finds that the soaring violent crime rate is higher than in Latin America or Africa, and “among the highest in the world”.

“Nearly one in three (of those who participated in the survey) said they had lost someone to violence. Guns are used about twice as often in robbery and three times as often in assault in the Caribbean as compared with the global average,” the report says. This gives serious reason for pause.

The average rate “of victimisation by assault and threat (6.8 per cent) is higher than in any other region, including Latin America (4.7 per cent)” or Africa (5.2 per cent). The report states that almost half of all crimes go unreported to the police. The victims are mainly 18-to 25-year-olds who live in poor neighbourhoods far from the tourist resorts.

The Caribbean region “is rightfully known for its beauty, warmth, culture, music, and, yes, beckoning environment”, said Ms Therese Turner-Jones, who heads the bank's Caribbean Department. “But the darker side of having some of the world's highest violent crime rates remains a cause for concern.”

One area of special concern pointed out in the survey is violence against women and children. It was found that tolerance of violence against women and children is higher than comparable regions, according to the report's lead researcher, Ms Heather Sutton.

We in the Caribbean, and especially Jamaica, should be worried about the finding that one out of three adults in the region approves of beating a woman if she is unfaithful, which is a rate higher than in the United States or Latin America. If a woman is unfaithful, that is ground for separation, not 'murderation'.

“The literature shows that high tolerance is predictive of high levels of actual violence. This is one important risk factor that perpetuates the cycle of violence and delinquency,” the report cautions.

We have lived for far too long with untamed crime to the extent that some people are numb to its effects. If it is not a double or triple murder the news hardly catches our attention and, even at that, not for very long.

It is useful to reiterate that all of us have a vested interest in reducing the crime rate and to keep in mind that we will not effectively fight crime until we improve our economy to provide jobs for many more people. But, in the meantime, let us tell the police what we know to assist in reducing crime in the short term.

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