Editorial | When money breeds evil
The plea for peace from local entertainers from the stage in Montego Bay last weekend will, hopefully, not fall on deaf ears. Their outrage, though late in coming, should spur other vocal groups to come forward and take a stand. Now is the time for citizens to bolster peace efforts, for we seem to have run out of options.
Blame for the blood that has been running in the streets of Montego Bay and its environs has been placed on the lottery scam. Many difficult questions arise from this. What have we become? Are there politicians and police personnel who have helped this criminal activity to fester and take root? Who is responsible for this mayhem that is playing out in St James and various other parishes at this? And how will it end?
For several years, some persons have enjoyed the fruits of this evil scheme, which is designed to scam overseas residents of their cash. Money flowed in various directions to construct multi-storey buildings and to secure high-end luxury vehicles and designer clothing as many enjoyed and shared the loot they so mercilessly extracted from their victims.
With our mad-gun culture, it was inevitable that scamming funds would be used to buy guns and ammunition. And as the guns were turned on citizens, the Second City, Montego Bay, and other parts of St James were changed forever. The mayhem and killings have the police and others searching for solutions. The plain truth is that no police action, no political decree can save the day because change must come from within these very communities.
The citizens who remain silent, the business people who knowingly transact business with scammers, and the police who protect the criminals can never wash their hands of their responsibility. It is instructive that the majority of those drawn into the lottery scam are unemployed young men. It's easy to make the connection between economic deprivation and criminality. They see the lottery scam as the thing that will give them financial power, and they are seizing it. Having money in hand and plenty of it is, therefore, the total objective. But at what cost?
On the flip side, we see that the majority of those killed as a consequence of the scam are also young men. Horror stories abound of entire families being wiped out because of some kind of involvement in the scam. The direct negative effects of the lottery scam are evident, and there are also indirect costs such as additional state resources to investigate and apprehend the offenders. Crowded court lists have been made worse with lottery scam cases. Added to this is the horrible scar that these activities have left on Jamaica's reputation.
Not even children are safe in these communities. They are subjected to attacks, and often, their education is disrupted because it has become too risky to venture outdoors. Surely, that is an awful price to pay for condoning criminality in the first place.
Trust building and dialogue is where Jamaica needs to begin to repair the breach. This is where community policing becomes important, for although crime is a national problem, it is felt even more acutely at the community level. Jobs, better housing, and more opportunities for the youth must go hand in hand with policing strategies. Working with the community and important stakeholders such as entertainers and civic organisations, the Government has to consider aggressive anti-poverty strategies to tackle the decay in neighbourhoods affected by violence. It has been talked about repeatedly, but we have been short on action.