Editorial

Take care of children and break the back of crime

Monday, July 08, 2019

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The authorities say that 94 murders have occurred in the St Andrew South police division so far this year — 33 per cent higher than the 72 in the Clarendon division.

Shootings in St Andrew South — an intensely populated and economically depressed region of Jamaica's capital city — are also said to be higher than everywhere else.

Hence the decision of the Government to implement its latest state of emergency there.

It's useful to recognise that many people in St Andrew South communities, including Maxfield, Payne Land, Seaview, Waterhouse, Olympic Gardens, are among the poorest in Jamaica and they have had to deal with crime all their lives.

From the latest announcement we can conclude that staggered states of emergency will continue to be used in an effort to staunch the bloodshed which has haunted this nation for decades.

That the Government has opted for emergency measures only in a few selected areas since it started its new strategy early last year is obviously the result of resource constraints.

As has happened previously, we can expect crime numbers to fall in St Andrew South while the emergency measures are in place. Experience teaches that criminals may well focus their attention elsewhere only to return when emergency measures are brought to an end.

Obviously, while states of emergency are effective in the short term, they will not resolve Jamaica's crime problems over the long term.

How is the long-term problem to be resolved? National Security Minister Horace Chang hit the mark recently.

Dr Chang was reported as saying that seven out of 10 teenage boys in Montego Bay drop out of school before grade nine. He believes many of those dropouts are helping to fuel violence in the west, to such an extent that, up to last week, there were 68 murders in St James since the start of the year — up from 51 during the same period in 2018.

None of that is new.

This newspaper has consistently argued in this space that the high number of children not attending school contributes significantly to crime.

University scholars have provided figures and researched analysis to make the point.

Anthropologist Dr Herbert Gayle has argued for years that a major trigger for violent crime is that many of our children are being treated badly in the home and community; and far too many are not going to school.

His research has shown that children with a solid education are far less likely to choose crime as an option.

“Invest the very last dollar you have in education, and that's the only way we are going to keep our place safe,” Dr Gayle has said.

It seems to us that as the State intervenes in St Andrew South, through the use of emergency measures, it must also do all in its power to do right by children. Support structures should be put in place to ensure that every child is going to school and is being properly taken care of in those communities.

Gradually, by whatever means necessary, that is a policy framework that should be in every nook and cranny.

We say again, if we don't start taking care of all our children as a long-term measure to break the cycle of hate and resentment, we will always need states of emergency.


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