Here's how we can begin to systemically rid Jamaica of crimeFriday, April 30, 2021
According to InSight Crime, a non-profit journalism and investigative entity specialising in organised crime in Latin America and the Caribbean, Jamaica had the highest homicide rate in the entire region for 2020 — an already turbulent year.
The high crime rate has been a thorn in the side of Jamaica for decades; in fact, over 1,000 people have been murdered every year since 2001, excluding 2003. Being in the number one spot, we passed out countries such as El Salvador and Venezuela, with 46.5 per 100,000 being our official murder rate.
Jamaica also has an immense problem with aggravated assault, rape, illegal trade, and missing individuals.
There are many reasons for this, among them the lack of opportunities, poor parenting, culture, and mindset. Jamaica is an indisciplined nation with a deeply entrenched culture of worshipping 'badniss'. We've seen this with how we respond to instances of petty crimes to heinous acts. How can we, as a nation, tackle serious crime when people don't even care about littering and obeying the rules of the road?
We need accountability, not only from the Government, but also on the part of regular citizens. If we want less fatal accidents and indecency on the road, street surveillance will need to be increased. The JamaicaEye programme can be extended to all street corners in all major cities and towns secured by blockchain technology, and a dashcam initiative can be started with a target attachment rate of 33 per cent being the goal. If a third of drivers have dashcams a good number of reckless drivers would be reported through social media and would face sanctions. This should discourage more motorists from disobeying the road code. In addition, the fines need to be updated and inflation pegged for them to not be outdated in a few years and have ridiculously low cost decades from now.
There is need for a cleaner and larger police force to enforce the laws efficiently. Jamaica is a country of close to three million people, with approximately 14,000 police, that gives us a ratio of roughly 214 people to every police. If the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) can be increased to around 20,000 that would drastically help the strain on the force.
An increase in pay for lower-ranked officers could also help. But, before that is done, we need a force that has more integrity and is dedicated to justice. The corrupt individuals would have to be weeded out and replaced with young, dedicated individuals who feel the zeal to do what's right. In addition, the infrastructure of the organisation would have to change and to make it painstakingly harder to partake in illegal activities, much less get what away with the act. Once this is done, the trust in the JCF will increase.
Jamaica is in serious need of a fully realised, legitimate intelligence agency. I propose to merge the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) and Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Division (C-TOC) and separate them from the JCF. The newly merged organisation would need to be given massive financial support and be embedded with protocols for classified information to be protected. I believe this organisation would be able to minimise white-collar crime, the illegal narcotics trade, the human trafficking problem, and not to mention the illegal arms trade. This organisation would work with other organisations and have the ability to collect information, execute raids, conduct arrests, and more.
Our witness protection programme also needs to be improved, as many people are willing to testify but are scared for their lives; not to mention the long, arduous court process.
The Coast Guard also needs to be expanded and better funded in order that it will do a more efficient and robust job at border security. Jamaica, a natural logistics hub, has been used for nefarious trade activities for decades, if not centuries. The violence can't stop if illegal supplies continue to enter the country.
Many of our prisons are extremely old and vastly overpopulated. I would propose building a super-max prison, where the worst criminals will have to serve time for the heinous acts they've committed. They will work to repay their debts through manual labour in different areas across the country.
This would be open to include high-level criminals from other countries in the region at a price, and so generate jobs.
These are the steps the Government can contribute to thwarting crime on a systemic basis, but they can't do it alone. The people will need to be able to protect themselves and not simply rely on the State.
Community watch programmes must be strengthened as strong communities that work in conjunction with the police and intelligence agencies would be a force to be reckoned with. Citizens also need to be able to arm themselves, once background checks, psychological tests, and adequate training have been done.
The Government has to empower the people, whether for self-defence or making correct long-term decisions. Citizens' arrest needs to also be promoted and encouraged as the police won't always be able to come in time, but if good, upstanding citizens decide to execute this protocol a lot of criminals would be caught and certain crime would be much harder to execute.
Children in inner cities are arguably the most underprivileged in the country as they are born in an environment with little to no opportunities and grow up surrounded by many bad influences. They are the number one set of people to be recruited into organised crime due to their environment. Many young men from before the age of 15 are a part of gangs, not only because they don't have any better prospects, but also for the respect and praise that comes from being a 'bad man' in their communities.
A lot of young girls are also forced into life-altering experiences, among them molestation, early pregnancy. If we want to stop the cycle they need to be given better opportunities or removed from the environment. The only way I could see this being executed is to construct several military boarding academies. The Government would have to seek approval from parents/guardians, especially those in charge of children who need more help and discipline. These schools would be equipped with the best resources and dedicated teachers. The students will be given the opportunity to find their passion, live in a healthy environment away from violence, drugs, guns, and dangerous individuals, and will be taught principles and values that every upstanding citizen should have.
These schools would be free of cost. No doubt, it would cost a good amount of money and might be controversial, but it would be worth it in the end.
Jamaica can become the place of choice to live, work, do business, and raise families, but it can't do it while being the deadliest and one of the most crime-riddled countries in the Caribbean and Latin America. But we have to be more proactive as a nation in order to tackle our problems head-on or no true progress will be made.
Malik Smith is currently pursuing a double major in economics and banking and finance.
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