We need to cultivate a culture of action against crime

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

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Dear Editor,

I can't stop thinking about the spark that was snuffed out, the hope of our nation that is no more; blotted out of life like a dog, her mother mourned.

I love my country and people, but the hurt and brokenness I feel by the horrendous killing of 14-year-old Yatanya Francis make me groan. Yet the source of my anguish goes deeper than the thought of her violated, charred remains. It comes from the pattern of responding we've refined. A pattern that has shaped a culture of apathy.

We feel shaken by the act of violence for a few days or weeks at most. If it's a regular gunshot, we don't flinch. If it's a “chop off head” we cringe a little. If it's a celebrity we gather in Half-Way-Tree during lunch. If it's a rape-and-burn we call for justice, blame the Government, march, wear black to work, then party on the weekend until the next masochistic demonstration of inhumanity makes headlines.

Our response as a people, as a nation, needs to go past press releases, moments of silence, sending counsellors to affected communities. It is high time that we as citizens claim our responsibility to participate in crime-fighting strategies that work.

The zones of special operations and the states of emergency are short term. Parallel to economic empowerment, social intervention is a powerful long-term strategy, if not the most. Law-abiding citizens need to attach themselves to programmes and organisations that focus on providing psychosocial care to our brothers and sisters who are vulnerable to entering crime and violence.

We need more youth to volunteer in groups like the Back2Life Project, which has focused its support to boys in the Rio Cobre Juvenile Correctional Centre so they can spread their tentacles to other facilities. We need more volunteers in Called to Lead Jamaica, which has a peer mentorship programme designed to support youth who are at risk of participating in crime and violence. We need more members of the private sector to provide internships to unattached youth through the HOPE Programme. Support the youth clubs in your community that create after-school safe spaces.

Jamaica, we cannot continue with our knee-jerk reactions. We need to act! We are a mighty people! We can stand in the neck of the dragon called crime and violence that has raped our country and burned our efforts toward development. But we cannot do it at 7:00 pm by looking at the news and shaking our heads. We can't do it by blocking roads. We can't just pray and sit down.

We need to cultivate a culture of action that bears sustainable impact. You can choose to march, wear your black and take glimmering group photos as you stand in solidarity.

If you truly want to stand in solidarity with the families of Mickolle Moulton, Yetanya Francis or the victims of the March Pen Road Massacre, you must join a social intervention programme that is helping to reduce the number of perpetrators of violence. But we may have already forgotten them.

Benjamin Fraser

President, Called to Lead Jamaica


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