Fighting crime requires a mix of strategiesFriday, July 30, 2021
Police data up to Wednesday showed 817 murders across Jamaica since January 1, compared to 760 for the similar period in 2020.
At that rate, come the end of 2021 the number of murders will be much, much higher than the 1,301 reported for the 12-month period last year.
To make matters worse, several traditionally troubled neighbourhoods which were considered stabilised in terms of violent conflicts are again in trouble. Communities along Red Hills Road in the Corporate Area, where we are told at least three people died from gunshot wounds as a result of gang violence last weekend, represent a prime example.
Hence, Mr Milton Tomlinson of the Peace Management Initiative (PMI) and others are calling for a return of government funding to activate initiatives such as mediation to resolve conflicts within communities.
Mr Tomlinson tells us that the PMI made a big difference, not just along Red Hills Road, but in other depressed communities across Kingston and St Andrew. Now, he says, there has been regression as a result of a cut in funding with violent crime “flaring up again…”
We are aware that social intervention programmes, including the PMI, have come under fire for alleged inefficiency and waste. Since PMI's mediation often involves resolution of differences between groups and individuals in violent conflict, there is even the suggestion that such initiatives validate criminality.
National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang has been an unapologetic critic of the PMI and the related Citizen Security and Justice Programme. His ministry's decision to cut funding to such groups is apparently supported by the results of a study by the respected Caribbean Policy Research Institute which questioned the value of billions of dollars spent on social interventions down the years.
Yet, respected voices, including Dr Chang's, and indeed anyone with common sense, readily agree that crime must be addressed in a multifaceted way. It's not a question of hard policing or social intervention. It has to be both, and more.
Further, crime cannot be divorced from other problems such as unemployment, illiteracy, high school drop-out rates, poor health care, and people so poor that some children regularly go to sleep hungry. All of these problems have been made immeasurably worse by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The Government knows all this, which is why social intervention is built into the widely approved, zones of special operations (ZOSO) anti-crime strategy in selected communities. The trouble is that high cost and Government's limited resources have limited the execution of ZOSOs to just a few communities.
At the risk of being accused of monotony, this newspaper believes basic community organisation can help, with Government leading the way through its agencies and elected representatives working hand in hand with local leadership, so-called civil society, business operators, religious groups, educators, police, et al.
As president of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce Ms Janet Silvera told a forum in Montego Bay two years ago: “This pandemic known as crime...will require an all-hands-on-deck commitment…”
Also, patient planning and execution are a must. Crime and the numerous related socio-economic ills afflicting this country won't be eradicated overnight. It's going to take time.
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