Fri | Sep 22, 2017

Editorial | Speechless on Spur Tree

Published:Saturday | November 19, 2016 | 11:00 AM

It's a recurring event in Jamaican life: thieves descending on accident scenes to loot and plunder. Examples of such brazen theft have been reported in the media from time to time. Looted items range from cooking oil and chicken to beer.

Last week, we saw another such incident in Spur Tree, Manchester. This time it was rum. Video images of an extraordinary scene of men and women unashamedly walking away from the scene of the accident clutching cases and bottles of rum went viral, leaving many people aghast.

Looting is such a spontaneous activity that even people who usually abide by the law view it as an opportunity and will suspend normal behaviour to participate.

Persons have no fear in carrying out looting because they know there will be no consequences. They have seen it happen with impunity over and over again. In this recent case, there is every indication that the police arrived on the scene during the looting.

So far, not one arrest has been reported. Further, there are no reports about any businesses or homes being raided to recover the looted items. At the very least, persons should have been charged for stealing, and there are good chances that a vigilant police force would have been able to make out a case for receiving stolen items. We sincerely hope the police are investigating this incident and the results will be made public soon.

Some may argue that the sheer numbers of looters may have overwhelmed the police personnel on duty at the scene. That would be an easy way to dismiss a problem. However, even keeping the looters at bay would have been commendable, and making some arrests would have been an excellent way to send a message that this crime is not going to be tolerated.

 

Prevention

 

In any event, efforts could have been made to prevent the wide-scale looting that was observed. In a country where crimes of opportunity are readily dismissed as inconsequential, we urge the police to treat all infractions as serious and enforce the law. By ignoring some crimes, the entire system of law enforcement breaks down.

Looting is by no means a Jamaican phenomenon; it is commonly seen in the aftermath of disasters such as hurricanes or during street riots. Looting for survival may be viewed a little differently, especially if persons are foraging for food. In most cases, the looting is, however, not motivated by hunger but something else.

For the owners of the goods that spilled when the accident occurred last week, we can imagine the enormity of consternation that gripped them as they watched the spectacle and scale of the looting. There is, sadly, no empathy for them from the looting dozens as they likely believe this is covered by insurance. And worse, there is no protection from the law enforcers.

As for the crew of the motor truck that overturned, very little attention was paid to them by the looters.

However, the burden of responsibility rests mostly on the police.

Looting is a crime, and if the police are not going to move against the rampant theft of people's property, what hope is there for a reduction in the levels of disorder and mayhem threatening to destroy our way of life?