More on crime reduction 2023
REACTION to my article last week really gave me some insight into how many view the victims of homicides in Jamaica, and the expectation of the populace on this issue.
I had mapped the period since Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson had been appointed to the post in March 2018 to the end of 2023, and reported a 15 per cent decrease in homicides for the period.
So first up, several readers say that, based on my study, my thesis and the last calendar, the majority of murder victims are gang members or at least gang-associated.
Well my response is that they have relatives, who include children. And the pain of losing anyone in this manner is equally raw, even if ‘they had it coming’.
Secondly, regarding risk-assessment and public safety, several persons didn’t see the relationship between crime reduction and their safety.
Let me make it clear: You are not safe! No one in Jamaica is. No one is saying you are.
We have more murders than some war zones. How could you be safe?
However, a reduction in crime, especially robberies, reflects an environment that makes you a little safer.
As it relates to murder, the number of persons not involved in gangs who get killed is reasonably consistent. So, fewer murders create an environment of a reduced homicide rate for both gangsters and non-gang members, both reducing by the same percentage.
Let’s discuss rape. I hear quite a bit about the likelihood of victims who do not report rape cases. There is that reality, but this is a variable every year so it doesn’t impact reduction statistics, unless there is information to indicate that something has changed with respect to one year versus a comparative year.
The 17.5 per cent drop is a significant reduction for one year.
We need to ask: What could have influenced this change of behaviour? Could it be that culturally we are looking at women differently? Is there less opportunity? Or is it luck?
I believe that the work-from-home phenomenon has helped. Rape prevention is aided by full homes, for obvious reasons. I also believe that the improved response by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) to reports of sexual assault has impacted the occurrence of the crime.
It would be hard for you to understand how differently allegations of rape are handled now versus 40 years ago, or even 20. It’s like night and day.
There is a separate section of a police station that specialises in the investigation of sexually connected offences.
There are procedures that are slavishly followed, and bail for this offence is more difficult to qualify for than it used to be.
Then there is the negative vibe in custody when you are convicted of this offence. This wasn’t the culture 30 years ago.
I was also asked by readers to qualify what I meant by the “sustained efforts by law enforcement against the gangs”. Think about it; both leaders of the Klansman gang factions are convicted and in prison. Most known gang members have felt the sting of anti-gang legislation — remember, just being a member is a crime — so many have been charged.
This assault against the gangs has been going on for years. It’s the greatest consumer of law enforcement’s resources.
Let’s look at St Catherine South.This is the division that includes Portmore. The homicide rate was almost 30 per cent less at the end of 2023 than it was at the end of 2021. This is the result of several factors. These include a strong, committed management team, one that created a strategy and stuck to it. There is also a committed staff of brave operators, an investigative team that considers crime control one of its responsibilities, and an intelligence arm that knows and understands the ‘streets’ and its polices. The product? A population of detained criminals who fill the division’s and the nation’s lock-ups.
We also have a homicide clear-up rate that consistently exceeds 60 per cent per annum. This is where that 30 per cent reduction comes from. It lies in the cages of the lock-ups because at the end of the day, only a caged killer will stop killing.
However, the reduction in crime in St Catherine South and in Jamaica as a whole depends on social intervention, if it is to be sustainable. I have seen the effects before.
We will continue reducing crime until the 11-year-olds who are in the homes of criminals they call “daddy”, “uncle”, or “big brother” grow up. Once that six-year period passes, if we had not changed the strategies, they will then become the new killers — and we won’t see them coming.
St Catherine South had reduced crime in 2011 with a homicide figure of 98 for the year, this after reaching a peak of 163 murders in 2009. The figures in that division were back up to 134 by 2021.
The figures will reduce if nothing really changes within the division or nationally for the next five years, and will stay below 100 murders per year in St Catherine South.
However, if we don’t do something to surgically intervene in the aforementioned homes that house the adolescents then we are going to have the exact cycle recurring. The question is, when will someone, anyone for that matter, listen to the social scientists who keep saying this?
We may not agree on theories and strategies but we all agree that drastic social intervention is the only tool to prevent a child with specific influences from turning into a killer. The adult ones caged are likely beyond rehabilitation. That’s my opinion.
It is an intervention that we need in order to stop what is coming, and that intervention needs care — not bullets, cages, or laws.
Let our next pre-emptive strike be one of surgical social change.