Criminals still more dangerous than COVID-19
The victims of a quadruple murder in Havannah Heights Phase Three in Clarendon on Sunday morning.

CRIMINALS reminded us last week that, as bad as the COVID-19 crisis is, they remain as dangerous as ever to the welfare and future of this country.

Yesterday, Jamaicans woke up to the news that four people, including two sisters, had been slaughtered execution-style in May Pen, Clarendon.

We are told that police believe that atrocity may be related to lotto scamming.

On Friday, in the busy market area at the western end of downtown Kingston, there was an “orgy of violence” as feuding gang members fired guns at each other, leaving five dead and sparking utter chaos.

None of this is new. Similar incidents have occurred time and again for as long as most people can remember in Kingston, Montego Bay, St Catherine, Clarendon, Westmoreland, and elsewhere.

Jamaica has been, for a long time, among the more murder-prone countries on Earth. Latest police figures show 975 murders up to September 9, up from 892 for the similar period last year.

While states of emergency in more recent times, and before that the discredited Suppression of Crime Act, provided short-term value, those are not long-term solutions. In any case, the constitutionality of such measures remains in question.

This newspaper has long argued that long-term solutions must be community-based. Few will argue against that. Sadly, though, successive governments have failed to comprehensively attempt community-targeted solutions.

We are particularly struck by the situation in downtown Kingston, given the happenings 11 years ago. Back then, the most notorious of all Jamaican crime 'dons', Mr Christopher “Dudus” Coke, was apprehended by the security forces. He was subsequently extradited to the United States and imprisoned there for being a source of crime in that jurisdiction.

Back in 2010 when the security forces uprooted Mr Coke, a major concern for residents of west Kingston was that lawlessness, disorder, and even greater poverty would result. For many in those downtrodden communities Mr Coke was protector, benefactor, and the power who ensured stability.

The word from Government then was that the vacuum created by Mr Coke's removal would be adequately filled. It's been obvious for years, with ongoing and worsening gang violence in west Kingston communities, that this pledge has fallen flat. Indeed, across Kingston and elsewhere criminal gangs seem increasingly active. The security forces are apparently at a loss.

Fixing crime won't happen overnight and will not be easy. It requires a properly thought out, structured approach which targets the poorest, least-empowered people in their communities. The political directorate, including ruling party and Opposition, government agencies such as the Social Development Commission (SDC), the business community, so-called civil society, the religious fraternity, et al, must join hands in helping those in downtrodden communities to become so organised, socio-economically empowered, and well led from within that they will confidently partner with the police in facing down criminals.

Basic needs must be met.

With or without the current health crisis, the situation in inner-city communities of large numbers of children — hungry and uncared for, with no means of getting an education — should be addressed.

Regretfully, many privileged Jamaicans have no idea — or have chosen not to know — about life at the base.

For what it's worth, we think it is pointless to keep talking about solving crime if the hopelessly impoverished and ignorant remain as they are.

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