Wed | Dec 13, 2017

Mark Wignall | The good, the bad and the criminal

Published:Thursday | July 6, 2017 | 12:09 AM

Last week, the businessman was upbeat, unusually so.

"Me and my colleagues are close to the action, the BPO sector. In the economic zones expansion, over the next three years, we see probably an additional 10,000 jobs."

"What about crime, about the perception that those jobs are a new form of slavery?" I asked.

"Slavery? The reality is, these people operate at very high standards and our people have to step up to meet that. As for the salary, I don't believe the workers will have too many complaints." He was of the firm belief that a reduction in murders could lead to even more expansion. "We do not have a wide window of opportunity to make this work. We have to show significant decreases in the next two years."

Two years ago, a few workers, females, had made contact with me and carried with them a mountain of complaints about a BPO company operating in the country's western end. It concerned general 'rudeness' by the supervisors and matters of time anomalies over breaks and lunch.

It is obvious that the differing levels of optimism among the social classes in Jamaica are directly linked to how close they perceive themselves on the road to economic opportunity. Most entrepreneurs

I know are amazing at compartmentalising. To them, while violent crime is a reality and a great social concern, it must never be seen as a hindrance to them in planning business expansion. Otherwise, the society is seen as caving to the criminal element.

In recent days, I have been most disturbed by YouTube videos of the glorification of violence. From schoolgirls involved in a deliberate fight tailor-made for cell phone cameras to women in inner-city settings stoning each other to men posing with their illegally acquired guns and expressing deep and dangerous states of mental despair.

That the schoolgirls would pose for and engage in arranged fights in their uniforms is itself despicable. That there is a viral market for it makes it a national tragedy.

There are many schoolchildren all across the island who are ardently involved in getting the best they can from what is offered them in the public education system. They do not need this crude and mind-bending distraction.

Those adults who have jobs and must take public transport or robots are now on alert because of reports of kidnappings and robbery. Still, each day they leave the relative safety of their homes trying to make an extra dollar. All they want to do is to reach home in the same state that they left it.

One of the foreseen but definitely unneeded consequence of every crime spike is the extent to which it emboldens petty criminals. Under 'normal' circumstances, some young men with too much time spent idling who would probably do petty robberies and break-ins, would during murder spikes use the opportunity to step up their game. It is the route to an increase in the hardening of those perpetrating crimes at all levels.

The temptation to an increase in the use of the gun to solve disputes of all kinds is obvious and, in this respect we have begun to see a few inner-city communities reawakening to the worst of their past demons.

As more of our people grow in support of any action which they perceive as acting in the interest of driving down the murder rate, more of them it will be who will want to see added power given to the security forces.

That said, I believe that that added grant of power comes with certain conditions, at this time unstated but silently implied. There has to be tangible results. Especially for people who are living just two houses or roads from a cache of arms and ammunition and where disputes are a dime a dozen.

They need to be able to walk their streets in peace and sleep well in their beds at nights.

They need immediate results.

observemark@gmail.com