Crime choking country
Billions of dollars being spent on security, care of victims
A Jamaica Observer file photo with people at a crime scene in St Andrew.

A just-released study on case management and psychological services to vulnerable children, adolescents, unattached youth, and victims of violence has driven home the extent of the strain from crime and its consequences on the pockets of both the public and private sectors.

The findings of the European Union-funded study conducted in collaboration with the national security ministry and other State agencies revealed that private 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.

At the same time, among the other details released on Wednesday at the headquarters of the Jamaica Constabulary Force in St Andrew, about $101.8 billion had been spent in 2021/22 among the police, the Jamaica Defence Force, the Department of Correctional Services, the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA), and hospitals to deal with crime and its consequences. Hospitals spend $400,000 per day to keep one gunshot wound victim in intensive care, the report said.

In the cost analysis of bumping up personnel and the number of facilities to address the case management and psychological needs of vulnerable groups, researchers Jennifer Jones and Noah Levy pointed out in the report that, although those costs seem high, they are dwarfed by the cost of crime.

The researchers noted that the cost of crime could be as high as US$633 million ($85 billion) when put in the perspective of the country’s 2019 GDP. They noted that if the $500 million which it is estimated is needed to improve case management and psychological support reduces the cost of crime by just 0.1 per cent, this could save the Government of Jamaica approximately $1.6 billion.

“The cost of psychological support and case management services often more than pays for itself when the benefits of such programmes have been measured,” the report said.

The study pointed out, for example, that an estimated $1.00 spent on tier two of the Jamaican Child Resiliency Programme in primary schools resulted in $7.00 in benefits, and that for every $1.00 spent on preventative care for youth, $4.00 is saved in costs relating to juvenile services in the future.

National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang, who was among the slate of officials addressing the launch event, stressed that schools in vulnerable communities are in urgent need of support.

He also pointed out that, more often than not, children in vulnerable communities do not make it into quality schools, and that it is crucial that the institutions in these communities be transformed.

“Our worse schools and the least qualified of our teachers are in the most challenged communities. You can name them. The traditional schools by and large remain as the name brand schools, one or two have evolved, but not many. So we cannot be really hoping for change [when] most time they cannot get into these schools if you go across the country,” Chang said.

Students who get into a good quality secondary school when they do get the break, he said, do extremely well.

Among the recommendations that have been put forward by the researchers is that child and adolescent mental health services should be prioritised in the first 30 months of a five-year strategy to fix the shortcomings in case management and psychological services to the groups identified. They have also recommended that a psychological support unit be established within the HEART/NSTA Trust to successfully graduate more trainees from inner-city communities.

It said, too, that managers and providers of social services are also in need of in-house psychological support, and that juvenile corrections centres should be outfitted with a reintegration unit to support the transition of those leaving the system. Government is also being urged to collaborate with and provide more funding to non-government organisations and churches, and to have its agencies share spaces in order to cut back on costs.

Alphea Saunders

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