There are those who insist that poverty has nothing to do with crime.
“Me grow up inna poverty and me neva tun criminal,” is a popular position.
Some individuals cite white collar crime and public sector corruption to underline their case: “Mr… was in high position but him still tief taxpayer money…”
Jamaicans hear such talk regularly. It seems to this newspaper that such hard-and-fast positions do not take into account variables in socialisation and upbringing. For example, we believe it is obvious that someone growing up in a very poor but stable household — with mother and father together — is much less likely to stray down the wrong path than another in an unstable home environment.
Likewise, we believe easily accessible education and skills training which provide people with viable employment and entrepreneurial opportunities are intimately linked to building a stable society, with knock-on effects in reducing crime and related social problems.
Of course, there are always exceptions. We concede that there are those who stray from the path purely because of personality weaknesses of some sort.
With all the above in mind, we think yesterday's Sunday Observer story which links unemployment and low economic status to serious crimes should be a must-read.
We note data from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) showing that 4,260 unemployed people were charged with murder, shooting, and firearm breaches from 2016 to October 2021.
We are told that immediately behind the unemployed category, are labourers — people whom we assume are largely uneducated and untrained. The labourer category accounts for 2,117 people being charged for murder, shooting and firearm breaches since 2016.
Then comes a most surprising category — farmers. We can only assume that the police have loosely included jobless and 'unattached' people in rural communities who conveniently describe themselves as farmers.
Regardless of the weaknesses in data categorisation it is clear that those at the very bottom of the socio-economic ladder are resorting to crime in high numbers.
We note word from social anthropologist Dr Herbert Gayle that, even among the impoverished, social stability can make a difference. Says he: “A man who has a very supportive woman is very much less likely to commit a violent crime than a man who has an extremely demanding woman... And, if you have the mother, father, everybody around making sure you're alright, chances are you won't do any harm. But, if they depend on you and make you into the primary breadwinner, even though you're not employed, that is where the problem is going to be.”
Then there is education. Former Opposition senator, economist Dr Andre Haughton tells us what we already know; that education, training, skills are among the qualities needed for people to be viably employed — which brings us back to people resorting to crime because of economic desperation.
So, then, with a huge portion of the student population missing from online classes since last year, there is the inevitable question of what will be done to ensure that the learning gap is filled, somehow, in the months and years ahead.
How creatively, efficiently, and quickly Jamaicans and their leaders strategise and execute to bridge that yawning chasm will determine much about the future.
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