Mon | Aug 21, 2017

Jaevion Nelson | Going to the root of the crime problem

Published:Thursday | December 29, 2016 | 12:54 AMJaevion Nelson

We have a tendency to suggest there is no plan to address crime and violence and that the police are inept when there is a spike in (or reporting of) murders. Admittedly, it can be rather daunting keeping abreast with the news given the healthy treat of such reports in electronic and print media on a daily basis. It’s even worse for those of us who are personally affected, who live in communities that are riddled with such incidents, and who have to contend with police armed for battle patrolling through our communities.
I am aware crime is wreaking havoc in our communities. The situation in St James is untenable and there is a five per cent increase in murders islandwide. Notwithstanding, we have to appreciate that citizen security and safety have to be measured by more than murders, especially in a country where reprisal killings are seemingly so prevalent.
While there is always room for improvement, we can't keep suggesting that there is no strategy to arrest crime and violence. We can’t be encouraging aborting the plan/strategy that is in place a year or two after its commencement because more people were murdered when compared to the previous year. I would like to think that we know what the strategy has to be; every crime plan seems to proffer the same course of action, with minor changes of course. I believe the quandary is the full implementation of the (fairly) well written strategies that would deliver the results we desire over time.
We have to be patient, as difficult as it is, to allow our plans to be implemented. Addressing crime and violence require a multifaceted long-term strategy that goes beyond the control of the constabulary force. We have to lend our support to the police and government while demanding the changes that are necessary to enable us to truly put a dent in crime and violence thereby making our communities safer.
I take note of the celebration of the departure of the Commissioner of Police, Dr. Carl Williams and the calls for someone who is/can be ‘tough on crime’. We can't measure the success of the Police Commissioner merely by using the number of murders committed in a given year.
That so many of us desire/require someone who can drive fear in criminals shows the scant regard we have for due process. We certainly need to be 'tough on crime'. However, contrary to popular belief, killing suspected or known criminals will not solve crime and violence in our country. When the head of a gang dies the second in command takes his place. It's just like any other entity; it doesn't cease operating because the leader is no longer available. It might be helpful to recall that we have seen a reduction in crime and violence when there were fewer police killings.
As Glenroy Murray, the Policy & Advocacy manager at J-FLAG said online, “The same people who think [someone with such a profile] should be commissioner is the same type of people who say that people should give up rights to allow the police to do their job. They aren't very different, if at all, from the people who think the existence of INDECOM prevents the police from doing their jobs.” We should be mindful that, as Ralston Chamberlain said, “Today it's someone's basic human rights that's trampled on but tomorrow it could be you.”
The solution lie in our collective actions. The west, St James in particular, does require special attention but that can't merely be more man on the ground and more high powered rifles. Perhaps a good starting point is a report from The Gleaner’s Western Bureau on November 28, 2016 entitled St James Youngsters Brand Politics A ‘Big Joke’ – ‘Scamming Is Our Best Representative’. I notice we have been particularly silent about this despite the fact that the person(s) the reporter spoke to in the Salt Spring Division shared that: “Them have to put ‘lotto scam’ on the ballot paper if they want our vote. Scamming is our best representative round here. Look how many communities it is taking care of. That is my member of parliament and councillor.”
Let’s start here; the root of the problem - layers of ineptitude and negligence year after year after year that continue to make the situation worse. Let’s think about why crime thrive in our country and what we need to do about it.

- Jaevion Nelson is a youth development, HIV and human rights advocate. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and jaevion@gmail.com.