Social anthropologist Dr Herbert Gayle has argued that Jamaica has always had a governance issue, especially where it relates to combating crime.
Gayle's statement came in the wake of the Jamaica Constabulary Force's (JCF) report that in January 133 murders where recorded, as opposed to 129 for the same period last year.
In an interview with the Jamaica Observer, Gayle suggested that the Government needs a violence reduction plan that focuses on all three levels. According to Gayle, these are tertiary level, which focuses on crime suppression; the secondary level, that focuses on the individual economic development and mediation; and the primary level which focuses on long-term training and opportunities.
When probed about his reaction to the increase in murders in January 2022, Gayle said, “First of all I'm not surprised, because if you look carefully at the country, you'll see that our murders have not gone down.”
Speaking on the suppression phase of crime fighting, Gayle added, “[it] has successfully held the murder rate stable. So, if you look at where it was in 2017, we've had an increase in suppression, and that has brought the murder rate down, but it has held the murder rate stable. So, in 2018 to 2019, 2020, 2021, you would see the murder rate just teetering around 48 per 100,000.
“Violence suppression and violence reduction are two very different things. Violence reduction is about addressing things at three levels. So, you have the tertiary level, which would be SOEs [states of public emergency] and ZOSOs [zones of special operation], but that is just for a specific group of people. Tertiaries are the visible stuff that hold things so they don't get out of momentum,” he went on.
However, Gayle said the mediation aspect of the secondary level of crime reduction plan in Jamaica was doing “very well” as it relates to the restorative justice programme in the Ministry of Justice.
“This is not a guess work, it's the fact that a lot of families and a lot of communities have been able to access the Ministry of Justice restorative justice system and have done very well. The problem with that is scope, it needs to be broader, so we need to increase that framework of restorative justice,” Gayle explained.
But, he declared that the country was not getting better economically.
“We have COVID and here we want to be extremely scientific, we don't want to blame anybody unnecessarily. We've had a lot of pressure, but there's been a lot of criticism of what's been happening with the Ministry of Finance. There are persons who think that more can be done to alleviate the pain of the poor,” he told the Sunday Observer.
Adding that there is a correlation between access to food to feed one's family and violence, Gayle stated, “You have to bear in mind that there's a gender component here, the natural order of things, we're talking about neurobiological. Women hunt food for women and children, boys from as young as 10-years old that you see on the road, hunt food for self and mother and sister and little brother. So, biologically, and based on our training, based on social learning, boys are more concerned about food for everybody.”
“So, from very early it is a gender role expectation of him to be a hunter, to get food, and that puts pressure on him. It's madness out on the road, everybody hustling right now. In the next two [to] three years, you're going to see the immense damage to boys, because those little boys you're seeing are carrying their families,” Gayle said, noting that 17 per cent of inner-city boys in Montego Bay, St James, say they were the primary breadwinners in a study that he conducted between 2017 and 2018.
Over the last 20 years, according to JCF reports, 2003 has recorded the lowest number of murders at 976, with every other year recording over 1,000 murders and 2009 seeing the highest murder rate at 1,683. In 2017 and 2018, Jamaica recorded 1,647 and 1,287 murders, respectively. However, last year the JCF reported that 1,463 murders were recorded.
Additionally, Gayle told the Sunday Observer that ZOSOs and SOEs “cannot be no viable crime plan, because how is it going to be long term?”
“I don't know if long term for [the prime minister] means five years or 10 years. SOEs work like this, there's a problem emerging in a community, you shut them down, you redeploy the combatant, you send the kids to school, you set the community straight, you move on. It can't be no long-term for them,” Gayle continued, arguing that if the Government were to do the primaries and secondaries the citizens would vote them out.
“In theory, we know that if you are a populous government and you don't do what the population asks you to do, even if it's nonsense, you will be removed. I've been saying, give the people what they want but do what they need by doing primaries, secondaries and tertiaries all at once. Because the people are going to call for their tertiaries…They want instant gratification; they want their morphine,” he said.
Gayle went on to say that he cannot empathise with any government who say there isn't enough money to implement all three levels in the violence reduction plan.
“Be they Labourite or Comrade, who have tons and tons of corruption and leaking the money and telling you they can't find the money…We need to reduce the corruption but we also need to prioritise where we put this money,” Gayle said.