Murder explosion in USA 2020Sunday, October 10, 2021
The homicide count in the USA exploded in 2020, increasing by a stunning 30 per cent from 16,425 in 2019 to 21,570.
Let me put this in perspective. Jamaica, the consistent top-five contender for murder, with a tally that has been over 1,600 per year at least twice since the beginning of the new millennium, has not had an increase in its annual murder statistic of 30 per cent from one year to the following year in at least 40 years.
The seventies showed dramatic growth in the perpetrating of murders, but we had a civil war. Since 2000, we have had five-year period increases that are as much as 50 per cent, but not 30 per cent in a single year. This is a conversation trigger on so many levels.
So firstly, why? Initial studies have leaned towards the novel coronavirus pandemic. Is this possible? Let us discuss.
COVID-19 came with two common features — work from home and lockdowns. This puts families together for longer periods of time. This should promote closer relationships. However, they also strain relationships.
Strained relationships lead to domestic conflicts. Sometimes these conflicts result in violence, and then death. This could be a factor. Domestic murders increased by four per cent from 2019 to 2020 in the USA.
Then there is the economic impact of the pandemic. The fiscal blow of lockdowns and curfews is significant. The strain of increased health care needs on the public purse and the insurance companies are immeasurable.
Economic factors influence crime on many levels, to include murders. Also, more robberies can go bad, more males join gangs. More idlers are on the street. These are the usual factors we sort of like ignoring.
This could explain the increase.
However, there are some unanswered questions. For instance, where are the travel advisories warning tourists not to go there? If this were Jamaica, those would be everywhere in red. Is our Government or the British Government going to issue one?
Secondly, are they going to fire the head of Homeland Security, or the Federal Bureau of Investigation? I think not.
Perhaps this will be a political selling point in elections to come, especially if it continues. I know it would dominate our political campaigns. How would we deal with it if our national murder count was to surge by 30 per cent in one year?
Well, we would call for the removal of the minister of national security, followed by the commissioner of police. Then the Opposition would use it to argue for a change of the Government in totality.
Why is it that two English-speaking countries a couple hundred miles apart dealing with the same type of crime act so differently with respect to solutions?
I think we are more blame-driven than solutions-driven. We, in fact, like blaming even rainfall and viruses on people.
Additionally, we put incredible emphasis on murder. It is on everyone's lips like football scores.
It is not so in the USA. They focus on murder in the press in a more segmented manner. They focus on mass shootings and celebrity killings. Black on black violence is not a big part of their reporting.
The question is: Who is right in respect to blame vs fix? Are we, or are they?
In this case, I think they are right. Trying to blame ministers for murder is shallow. That is, unless you can identify a specific decision that they made that triggered the crisis.
Let me give you an example. In 1997, the commissioner of corrections, Colonel John Prescod, announced he was going to issue condoms in prisons to combat the spread of HIV and AIDS.
This caused a riot. The riot led to dozens of deaths in prisons — very quickly too.
So, in a case like this you could say those things were caused by his announcement. However, he is not God. He did not know that the prisoners would react this way. He had sincere intentions to combat a health-care crisis.
At least though, in this case you can identify a factor that caused an incident and identify a person who participated in decisions directly related to that factor.
There was also the decision in 1994 to disband Operation Squad. This caused mayhem as that unit was the tip of the spear.
We do not look for specific decisions like this. We just say, 'run them', without finding one God Almighty thing the persons we are trying to get rid of has done that caused the problem.
This makes our politicians seem senseless when we do this; and we do it often.
There have been instances of politicians and technocrats who have made decisions that caused the crime spike. I have spoken of them many times before. These range from the removal of the Suppression of Crime Act in 1993 to the revision of the Bail Act in 2010.
However, since the bungling of the seventies and the politics of that era we literally cannot put our finger on 20 bad decisions made by political leaders or police commissioners.
So let us assume that mistakes were made that caused a murder spike. Is there necessarily any positive outcome when you fire for a bad decision? Do you lose more because of the loss of the experience? Are you in any way assisting a solution? Or are you just punishing?
When decisions are being made that are really intending to end this blood trail we have been following, they must be led by logic and not a desire to punish. It was logic that led Nelson Mandela to go the route of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, rather than a purge when he became the leader of South Africa.
It is not because a purge was not deserved, because it was. However, it would have led to the furtherance of more racial violence and, therefore, would not have achieved the desired outcome.
I would like to see a day when an incoming Government says we need a particular minister to continue his association with his ministry because he is that good.
I do not think persons with the intellectual capacity of Nigel Clarke should be tied to a political party. He should be allowed to lead a ministry, irrespective of which party wins.
Logic over blame, country over party. What a day that would be.
So let us close by saying be careful of how you travel to the USA until they get stuff under control and look for the zones of violence that are more likely to break into gunfights.
They often highlight West Kingston and other traditional zones of violence in Jamaica. So let me warn you about Chicago, South Boston and South Los Angeles. That is my travel advisory, since no government — especially ours — will ever issue one related to the USA.