Editorial | Who’s engaging Herbert Gayle?
For anyone who followed Herbert Gayle's dissection in this newspaper of the pathology of crime in Jamaica, the recent flare-up in homicides will seem inevitable. It is almost seven years since the shock of the security intervention in Tivoli Gardens ushered in a one-third decline, over the next three years, in murders.
And Dr Gayle contended in his articles that shock therapy, such as the Tivoli experience, in the absence of something more, was unsustainable. Jamaica has not done that more. Or, not sufficient of it.
"Once the homicide rate surpasses 30 per 100,000 (Jamaica's is 50/100,000), it requires luck and extreme muscle to get positive results within a five-year cycle from the application of force," the University of the West Indies (UWI) social anthropologist wrote in a February 2 article. "For instance, the Tivoli invasion was so massive that it created a trench in homicides between 2010 and 2014 ... Yet, the 2015 and 2016 homicide data show that pre-Tivoli violence is again our reality."
Tivoli Gardens was the redoubt of powerful crime boss and political enforcer Christopher Coke, whose private militia barricaded the community and engaged in coordinated attacks on government property as part of their effort to resist Coke's arrest and extradition to the USA. In the fighting, one soldier and 69 civilians were killed, several of them, according to the findings of a commission of enquiry, extrajudicially.
The pacification of criminals that followed that episode hasn't lasted. Murders increased 20 per cent in 2015, followed by another 11 per cent jump last year. The big issue, according to Dr Gayle, is a failure to address, comprehensively, the problems that lead to dysfunction in Jamaica, not least the more than 120,000 young people aged 14-20 who are neither in school nor in jobs.
But Gayle has argued that while both sexes are at risk, the crisis is primarily among boys, a large proportion of whom are being socialised for gangs and crime. Boys, he reported, are three times as likely as girls to be brutally beaten in homes; they represent up to 95 per cent of children who are killed; and are more likely to be killed than women and girls combined.
Boys, also, are three times more likely than girls to be consistently hungry and undernourished; they suffer greater neglect by their fathers than girls; they are expected to, and do, drop out of school when the family faces economic crisis; are more quickly to be sent to reform homes than girls; and up to a quarter of all working-class or inner-city dwelling boys hustle on the streets.
We had been made to believe that a twin attack against crime, on the social and police-justice fronts, would have been reflected in the Budget for the new fiscal year as part of the Government's economic growth strategy. There is, indeed, a J$2-billion, or 39 per cent, increase in the allocation for cash transfers to poor families under PATH. We, however, do not yet discern a coordinated, strategic plan of, say, enhanced apprenticeship schemes, with inducement to firms to hire/train young people, or an expanded National Youth Service, involving the military.
Nor do we see a substitute to create, without the intense violence, the environment of the post-operation Tivoli. In this regard, the Police Pacification project in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro may provide a model.