The cycle of crimeSunday, September 19, 2021
In 2003 there was a noticeable increase in the homicide statistics in St Catherine Southern. Murders increased in 2003 by almost 50 per cent.
By the end of 2004 it was obvious that the trend was continuing upwards and a crisis was at hand, reaching a record-breaking 144 homicides for the year.
It was determined that a significant increase in gang activity was at the root of the crisis and simply put, Portmore was becoming Spanish Town.
A major thrust was undertaken against the gangs, led by Superintendent Cornelius “Calf” Walker and soon followed by other law enforcement stalwarts like Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Terrence Bent and SSP Marlon Nesbeth.
I was part of the thrust as a district constable on the gang squad. It was a tedious, dangerous effort. The saddest part of all was that two police officers were killed on duty in their effort to contain this gang takeover.
After five long years we finally saw a reduction in 2010, after homicides peaked at 163 in 2009.
Whilst many divisions showed a reduction that year because of the Tivoli incursion, we maintained our homicide reduction under 100 for seven years.
In 2019 the upward trajectory began again and — again — the renewed thrust to bring the gangs to justice is ongoing. I am still here and still part of this effort.
I conducted a study to see why is it that we had to be doing this all over. We had literally turned back every major player. We even defeated the mighty Gaza Empire.
Why has there been no permanent residual effect on crime seven years later?
We had brought so many to justice and sacrificed so much.
The first thing that stood out in the probe is that the men who I am now seeking to bring to justice were between 10-12 years of age when the last thrust was conducted, ending in 2010.
All that we had done in the five-year thrust had absolutely no current impact. It did, however, save a lot of lives in the period 2010-2019.
As a member of law enforcement I realise the limitations of our ability to bring about an indefinite impact on crime, particularly murder.
However, as a social scientist, I can understand the failure.
The same conditions that created the gangs in the early 2000s still exist. The 10-year-olds simply grew into their seniors.
As police officers there was not much we could have done. We cannot prosecute on the potential and likelihood of becoming a criminal.
That is why crime fighting cannot be limited to police officers alone. It requires a cohesive collaboration involving social intervention and behavioural monitoring.
This process is not easy. You see, it is hard to sell that social conditions create criminals in slums when the vast majority of young males, 18-34, who live and have been raised there, are not criminals.
It is also economically impossible to change the social system that exists there in the short run. Over 30 years, maybe, but not over five.
What we could have done, though, was a surgical selection of those likely to commit crimes in the future, who were 10-12 years old at the time, and conduct a drastic intervention activity.
Well, we are not Mandrake so how would we determine who the future killers are?
There are ways. Gangs follow family lines. It is very much generational.
For example, look at the Coke family — father, both sons, and grandsons have been listed as gang members.
Is it genetic? No, not really. Christopher “Dudus” Coke is not the biological son of Lester Lloyd Coke. It is environmental. So, if the various factors that had influenced one generation are also factors that have influenced subsequent generations, then the behaviour is likely to be the same. It is nurture, not nature.
You see, criminal behaviour is influenced by the slum environment in general, but not nearly as much as it is influenced by the home environment.
So, if you have an adult gang member in a household, just wait, a sibling or a son is going to grow up to join or replace him.
There are also particular dwellings, typically called big yards, which will continually produce gunmen. The reason for this is that criminals, who have ensured by example that others will grow up and follow, usually live in these types of settings.
What exactly do I mean by drastic surgical intervention?
It means you identify the possible future threat and literally engulf him or her in opportunity.
This only works if you separate the individual from the family and the community. Scholarships to boarding schools is a possible method, but this has to be accompanied by micro supervision from a social worker. The individual has likely had very little, or inconsistent, schooling and will, therefore, require tutoring.
All of this is possible because it is really not that many of our young who become gangsters. We only have 10,000 listed now.
However, if we are targeting the young in the drastic and surgical method I speak of, it could work. You see, the 10,000 who already exist are beyond redemption so it would be ill-advised to waste any time or money on them. The focus should be on trying to incarcerate them for life. They, in fact, are killing out each other at a rate of a 1,000 per year. Unfortunate, but true.
Focus on the would-be replacement killers. They are five to 10 years old. The data is available. I can identify in Central Village and Gregory Park, right now, about 50 children who require an intervention before they become inculcated. Most primary crime fighters in their police division can do the same. This would be a real crime plan.
If we do not start to think out of the box and long term, instead of year to year, nothing will change.
I am not, at this point, asking for a commitment to end squatter settlements, but I do want that, eventually.
But what I am calling for is a surgical identification and intervention activity focused on children likely to become gang members. I want it now. Why? Because I fought the fathers, I am fighting the sons and I will be damned if I am going to fight the grandsons.