Recoding Jamaica for safety and security
As Jamaica continues to wrestle with the gnawing issues of violent crime and corruption, a critical examination of the Government’s strategies reveals significant shortcomings in addressing these deep-rooted problems.
The fundamental issue lies in the political will of both parties to come together to put forward a holistic approach that addresses the root causes of crime and corruption in Jamaica. The focus on infrastructure and legislative tools, though important, does not fully tackle the broader social and economic factors that contribute to crime.
National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang’s recent remarks underscore the complexity of the situation. My argument is that the current efforts are good but insufficient for paving the way towards a safer, more stable Jamaica. He also highlighted the Government’s commitment to strategic planning in combating crime, emphasising the substantial investments in the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF). He pointed out the significant capital outlay to the JDF during the fiscal years 2018-2019 and 2019-2020, attributing this to the force’s long-standing commitment to a comprehensive strategic plan. This plan, according to Chang, was designed to bolster territorial control and domain awareness, which are crucial for national security and economic development.
A more effective strategy would involve a multi-dimensional approach, encompassing not only law enforcement and infrastructure development but also social, spiritual, and economic reforms. This includes investing in spiritual awareness, education, creating employment opportunities, and fostering community engagement programmes that address the underlying issues of poverty, inequality, and social disenfranchisement in a sustainable way.
To truly “recode” Jamaica, it is imperative that the Government adopts a more inclusive approach that considers the multifaceted nature of crime and corruption. This includes engaging with communities, churches, strengthening social institutions, and fostering a culture of lawfulness and civic responsibility.
As Jamaica moves forward it is clear that a paradigm shift is needed in how the Government addresses crime and corruption. While the efforts by Minister Chang and the current Administration are steps in the right direction, a more creative, robust, comprehensive, and integrated approach is essential for achieving sustainable progress and ensuring a safer future for the next generation of Jamaicans.
The rise in crime and corruption is not just a matter of law enforcement but is deeply rooted in a decline of societal values and ethics. The need for a comprehensive campaign that promotes values and attitudes conducive to a safer and more harmonious Jamaica is becoming increasingly evident. Such a campaign should aim to instil a sense of civic duty, respect for the law, and a commitment to community and national well-being. This approach recognises that long-term security and stability are not just the responsibility of law enforcement agencies but require the active participation and mindset change of every Jamaican citizen.
The concept of a ‘Values and Attitudes for a Safer Jamaica’ campaign could serve as a pivotal component of the national security strategy. This initiative would go beyond the traditional scope of policing and military intervention, addressing the social and cultural factors that contribute to crime. It would involve educational programmes in schools, community outreach initiatives, media campaigns, and partnerships with religious and social organisations to promote positive values such as respect, integrity, and responsibility.
By integrating this values-based approach with the current strategies, Jamaica can hope to achieve a more profound and sustainable impact on reducing crime and corruption. This holistic strategy would not only strengthen law enforcement capabilities but also foster a culture of legality and mutual respect among citizens, paving the way for a safer, more prosperous future for Jamaica.
Furthermore, I am also recommending a new, innovative approach to keeping Jamaica safe: a spiritual campaign titled ‘Thy Neighbour Thy Keeper’. This initiative seeks to harness the power of spiritual truth of loving our neighbours as ourselves. It seeks to build community bonds to foster safer, more cohesive communities across the nation.
The ‘Thy Neighbour Thy Keeper’ campaign is envisioned as a nationwide movement, encouraging individuals and communities to adopt a more caring, vigilant, and supportive approach towards their neighbours. Rooted in the fundamental spiritual and moral principles of compassion, respect, and responsibility, this campaign aims to rebuild the social fabric of Jamaican society, which has been strained by the rising tide of violence and corruption.
The premise of the campaign is simple yet profound: by nurturing a sense of communal responsibility and spiritual connectedness individuals are more likely to look out for one another, discourage negative behaviour, and foster a culture of peace and legality. The campaign would involve partnerships with religious institutions, community leaders, schools, non-governmental organisations, and the private sector to spread its message and engage people at a grass roots level. The simple message to our neighbour is: “You matter,” that’s why I care about your safety. Investing in such a spiritual campaign could have several benefits:
1) Moral reinforcement: By promoting spiritual and moral values, the campaign can help inculcate a sense of right and wrong, encouraging individuals to resist the temptations of crime and corruption.
2) Community engagement: The campaign can strengthen community ties, making residents more invested in the well-being and safety of their neighbourhoods.
3) Youth engagement: Engaging young people through schools and youth groups in this campaign can be particularly effective in shaping their attitudes and behaviour early on.
4) Support networks: By fostering a spirit of camaraderie and mutual support, communities can become more resilient to the social factors that often lead to crime and violence.
The campaign would involve a range of activities such as community meetings, workshops, spiritual dialogues, youth mentorship programmes, and media outreach. Special emphasis would be placed on engaging young people and integrating the campaign’s principles into educational curricula.
However, for the ‘Thy Neighbour thy Keeper’ campaign to be effective, it must be part of a broader strategy that includes economic development, law enforcement reform, and social welfare initiatives. It is not a standalone solution but a complementary approach that can enhance the effectiveness of other measures to combat violence and corruption.
As Jamaica continues to seek solutions to its security challenges, the ‘Thy Neighbour Thy Keeper’ campaign and other initiatives proffered in this article offers a unique and potentially powerful approach. By tapping into the social, spiritual, and moral consciousness of its people, Jamaica can foster a more harmonious, law-abiding society, one neighbourhood at a time.
As we move forward as a nation the message is clear: reinforcing fundamental values across all levels of society is not just a moral imperative but a strategic necessity. Only through a balanced investment in both national security and societal values can Jamaica effectively recode itself for the betterment of its current and future generations.
Dr Henry Lewis Jr is an associate professor at University of Technology, Jamaica, in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. He is also a social scientist and executive life coach. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or email@example.com.