Sat | Sep 23, 2017

Devon Dick | Mt Salem figures not adding up

Published:Thursday | September 14, 2017 | 9:00 AM

The corrected figures concerning murders are just not adding up and the reason for the error is not making any sense. It is claimed that the murder data was conflated with the shootings hence the errors. However, for 2017 the claim was 54 murders and the corrected figure shows seven murders and eight shootings, which would give a conflated figure of 15 not 54. The same applies to 2016, when the original figure was 85 and the new figures are nine murders and 10 shootings, which add up to only 19!

The 2017 murder figures were overstated by a whopping 671 per cent. This is not an error. An error is, give or take, plus or minus three per cent. This is either gross incompetence or crude overkill or lying with statistics. When all the corrected figures are added and murders and shootings conflated for the three years, 2015-17, they do not come to 54. The corrected data for the three years, including murders and shootings, give a grand total of 49. Where did 54 come from?

It is sad that it took a week to get the corrected data. It is sadder that after two weeks, the rationale given for the error is also error-laden. Is it that persons think that Jamaicans cannot add? This issue is about competence and credibility.

Furthermore, at the press conference to launch the operation in Mt Salem, nobody could pick up such a glaring oversell? Is it that no one on the National Security Council has a clue as to the correct figures? Is it that the Police High Command does not know the figures by heart? And the $54-million question is, who supplied these figures and why the overkill?

The prime minister said Mt Salem chose itself. That meant that the level of murders were unacceptably high and self-evident. Since it is seven murders and not 54, it meant that Mt Salem did not chose itself but someone or a group of persons chose Mt Salem. Who did it and what was that motive? It cannot be to get Social Development Commission (SDC) involved in the community because that is routine work for SDC in the 692 communities. It cannot be about getting children to school, because there was compulsory attendance from the 1980s, which is part and parcel of the Ministry of Education's apparatus to get children in school and to report recalcitrant parents. The main carrot is the money that will be spent in a zone. With limited resources, Jamaica needs to get value for money and the most urgent place should be first. If the main basis was not the high number of murders, why mention it in the first place?

 

SAVING GRACE

 

It would have been better to have chosen one People's National Party (PNP) constituency and one Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) constituency simultaneously for the special operations. If a PNP constituency were used first, some would say it was to stigmatise PNP; and if a JLP constituency were first, then some will say 'parson a christen his pickney first'.

The saving grace is that community people are aware of the murder data. And Lloyd B. Smith, publisher of the Western Mirror, claims that, based on the newspaper tally, the number is 12 or 13. Is seven even correct? Doubting official figures will lead to chaos and distrust of the governance apparatus.

If the numbers were not credible, what else is off target by 671 per cent? If this is the best after extensive planning, logistics layout and intelligence gathering, then God help us.

In Mt Salem, the authorities are ensuring that children go to school to learn and improve their numeric skills because math counts. The authorities need to make the numbers add up.

Let us get the truth, that God loves, in clear, comprehensive and unequivocal form. The truth will set us free and help to defeat the murder monster.

- Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to columns@ gleanerjm.com.