Houston (Kingston) we have a problem!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

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We were absolutely taken aback by the latest police figures showing a fairly significant drop in robberies and break-ins last year in comparison with the previous year.

As reported in yesterday's edition of this newspaper, robberies declined from 1,426 to 1,242, and break-ins from 1,307 to 1,167, while the 600 motor vehicles (including motorbikes) which were stolen counted 16 less than the previous year.

Unless we are prepared to argue, hopefully with empirical evidence, that poverty has dropped substantially, despite the rise in population, then the numbers for robberies, break-ins and stolen motor vehicles do not support the conventional wisdom that poverty is the main cause of our high crime rate in Jamaica.

If that were the case, we would most certainly expect to see a continuing climb in those numbers, even as high as they actually are already.

Moreover, the police statistics are saying that rape moved down from 523 to 442, and aggravated assault from 464 to 411. The police seized 21,764 firearms and ammunition compared with 8,671 for the similar period of 2016 and made 10,918 arrests; that is, 160 more than the year before.

If we take it that these figures are a reasonably accurate reflection of our true situation with crime, that is to say murder is the only crime on the uptick, then we have a very serious problem.

The obvious question is what accounts for our horrendously high murder rate of over 1,600 last year and the brisk start to murders, already in the 40s, this year, if not poverty?

We had long suspected that poverty was not the main cause of murders here. Historically, in periods when things were far worse than now economically, the murder rate was lower. Many of the poorest Jamaicans now are not committing crime.

So if it's not poverty, what is driving the murder rate?

The answer is urgent and immediate.

Former Police Commissioner Owen Ellington has maintained, and we agree with him, that gang activity is the main culprit. We also believe that drugs and gunrunning, as well as scamming, are also key factors.

We wish to find common cause with the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association (JMA) in again urging the Government and Opposition to join forces on an effective crime strategy which unites our people against the gunmen who, it is agreed, are not without resources.

“The rising crime levels, in particular murder, weakened institutions, and a breakdown in social norms are leaving the people of Jamaica feeling powerless and insecure. It is the belief of the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association that if we are serious about crime and have the political will to cut crime, we can.

“What is necessary is decisive action and a clear direction which has social and political consensus…The time is now to rebuild respect and restore law and order — if not, all the macro-economic gains and sacrifices made as a country will have been for nothing.”

We are in complete agreement with the JMA and all Jamaicans who share this position — which is one that we have maintained throughout in this space.

The Government at its retreat might wish to consider setting up a joint select committee of Parliament, with equal membership from both political parties, to start the process of uniting the country to fight crime.




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