Jamaica needs unified, visionary, exemplary leadership
Members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the Jamaica Defence Forcecontinue the search for firearms in the vicinity of the Stadium East field on MountainView Avenue in St Andrew, where eight illegal guns were recovered between Sundayand Monday. (Photo: Karl Mclarty)

Jamaicans already know, or should know, that apart from disrupting their lives directly or indirectly at every turn, crime poses a huge economic burden at the national level.

Yet, for all that, the sheer numbers in dollars, as reported in the article headlined ‘Crime choking country’ in yesterday’s edition of this newspaper, are shocking.

We are told that a study funded by the European Union and conducted in collaboration with the national security ministry and other agencies of the Jamaican Government revealed that private sector entities “are spending between US$88.16 million and US$142.19 million or up to 1.02 per cent of the country’s total output in goods and services on security. Meanwhile, 18 per cent have reported approximately four per cent loss in sales annually, due to crime”.

And, in the public sector in 2021/22, the Government spent about $101.8 billion among the police, Jamaica Defence Force, Department of Correctional Services, Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA), and hospitals to deal with crime and its consequences. We are told that hospitals spend $400,000 per day to keep one gunshot wound victim in intensive care.

The researchers said that the cost of crime could be as high as US$633 million ($85 billion) when put in the perspective of Jamaica’s 2019 gross domestic product (GDP).

They believe that increasing personnel and facilities to meet case management and psychological needs of vulnerable groups would help to reduce crime.

Such an intervention programme would cost about $500 million, researchers claim. According to them, if the cost of crime is reduced by just 0.1 per cent, this could save the Government approximately $1.6 billion.

Of course, convincing those who control the purse strings is another, more problematic story altogether.

For that reason, National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang’s assertion that schools in Jamaica’s most vulnerable communities are in need of urgent support comes as a breath of fresh air.

Obviously, the society can’t keep relying on “name brand schools” when the majority of our children attend schools that are shamefully under-resourced and unable to do justice to their students.

Our reporter tells us that the researchers also recommended, among other things, prioritisation of child/adolescent mental health services for the most vulnerable; psychological support for HEART/NSTA Trust trainees from inner-city communities; greater in-house psychological support for social workers; greater opportunity for those in juvenile correctional centres to be reintegrated; and that Government should collaborate with and provide more funding for groups who are in direct contact with the most vulnerable, including non-government agencies and churches.

All of that is worthy of applause in our view. We contend, however, that beyond all that, the much-desired transformation of Jamaica — including bringing crime and antisocial behaviour to heel, while at the same time empowering people to lift themselves out of crippling hopelessness, ignorance and poverty — requires comprehensive mobilisation at the community level.

That transformation won’t happen overnight and can only be achieved when there is unity of purpose across political lines and with all hands on deck, from every legitimate sector of society.

To beat criminals and lift Jamaica from the current socio-economic mire there has to be a unified, national vision and will to get the job done. Crucially, the elected political leadership — Government and Opposition — must lead by example.

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