Illogical expectations, unrecognised achievementsSunday, January 24, 2021
I had promised that I would do an article that addresses the homicide rate. However, I will not compare it to last year as I think that is a bit banal.
Nothing really changes in a year. In fact, the practice of assessing our crime statistics annually is actually fuelling the belief that there is an acceptable short-run solution to our crime problem.
There are short-run solutions, but none our country would accept unless it was tourists, politicians, attorneys, businessmen, or diplomats being slaughtered like the poor.
So I prefer to compare with our most recent crisis point – that being 2017 – when the country was just short of passing our previous peak of 1,690 victims that occurred in 2019.
Now in 2017, we had 1,649 homicides. Compared to 2020 where we had 1,323. This is a reduction of 19 per cent. However, I have always said that any shooting could have ended with a homicide. The saving of the life intended to be taken has nothing to do with the state of the nation's security or the efficiency of the police. It may have more to do with the capability of our hospitals, or a variety of other factors.
So let us combine shooting and homicide as one statistic. I call this combination 'extreme violent events'. If you do so, you get a reduction of 17 per cent between 2017 to 2020.
Well, are we celebrating the reduction? Does it satisfy our desire to see an improved security environment?
I do not get that feeling. Why is this so? Well there are a few reasons.
Firstly, we are stuck in this silly rut of analysing year-to-year. This is not logical. You only get plummeting crime statistics when you have a major crisis or event. This was demonstrated when there was that big reduction in homicides between 2009 to 2010. This was caused by the Tivoli Gardens incursion, its impact and residual effect.
Secondly, we all want to go back to being a civilised country, as we were pre 1974, so we accept almost nothing less. That is not reasonable.
However, do not take the reduction between 2017 to 2020 for granted. Whether you look on homicides or my system of 'extreme violent events', this reduction occurred without an event that caused international condemnation, unlike the last big reduction in 2010.
So, the question is: Can we ask more from our Government?
Well, if we accept where we are and look to an improved situation where we are going, we have to decide whether we want to improve another 17 per cent over the next three years. This is going to be difficult unless we reintroduce the regional states of emergency.
Maybe we can maintain the improvement, but to get another 17 per cent, it is unlikely.
As I always say, if you want drastic short-term results you would have to introduce drastic measures.
An example of these measures could be an Internment Act for known gang members and an expanded remand facility. And there is no way this Parliament is going to agree to the constitutional changes that would be required to pass it, epecially with at least 75 per cent of the victims being gang members and almost all victims being poor people. Sad, isn't it?
The first point in handling any crisis is an acceptance that you are in one. Then you require an analysis of what is your crisis.
Our crisis is that gangs are at war with each other. They are efficiently slaughtering each other's membership at a rate that is disturbing. They are also the ones killing about 300 innocent people every year.
So we have about 10,000 people we would categorise as enemies of the state. This 'enemy' designation does not extend to all poor males between 17 to 40, who live in slums. It is important that everybody understands that, including the police force, the human rights organisations and the politicians.
We have almost 4,000 more incarcerated.
When those incarcerated complete their sentences they are coming out. This will increase the total gang populace.
That means, more “enemies of the state”.
No solution over a short to medium time frame can work if the above mentioned enemies of the state are on the road. It is just that simple.
So how can we achieve this?
The only real solution, as I said before, is mass incarceration.
This can come with long-term mandatory sentences or an Internment Act that is similar to the Homeland Security Act. Or both! But I have said that before and I do not see that happening.
There are pivotal things that have been relatively constant since January 2018. The minister of national security, and the commisioner of police have been present and unchanged during this tenure. Indecom has not had the power of arrest and there has been massive injection of resources into the Jamaica Constabulary Force. All of this could be a factor in the success.
How do we maintain this?
Well, we look on what caused it, we keep doing it and for God's sake we recognise our blessings when they occur.
Long-term solutions also have to be robustly pursued. Economic and social changes have to take place and a ministry needs to be set up to achieve a surgical improvement to Jamaican slums.
At-risk persons in respect of future gang membership need to be identified at birth. The care and management of young males in slums needs to be micromanaged by a body that extends to branches. Ignored kids lead to invisible criminals.
Take the monitoring methodology in controlled environments and adapt it to ours.
Remember, though, social and economic solutions are not a short-term solution for fighting a homicide rate. They are long-term.
Crime-fighting does not normally yield annual results that show drastic change without a monumental, usually tragic, event.
Most importantly, thank God something changed to turn us back from where we were heading in 2017.
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