Sun | Apr 5, 2020

Mark Wignall | Murder rate to consume government in 2018

Published:Thursday | December 28, 2017 | 12:00 AM

Forty-seven-year-old Harold and his wife have been operating their variety shop/bar for the last 12 years. Situated about 300 metres from the semi-rural town centre, the shop sells food and grocery items, pots, pans and curios, and even chicken feed.

Last Friday night he went to about 11:30 p.m. He had just restocked for the Christmas weekend, but the young thieves had other plans. They came between 3 and 4 a.m. We surmised there were about two of them, obviously small in body to squeeze through the steel bars they had pried apart with a sturdy crowbar after ripping away the wooden window.

Once inside, they emptied out a few rice bags and used them to pack the liquor which they removed. There could have been an older man there with them, if one late-night passerby is to be believed. The reality is, for about four weeks prior to the break-in, there were some youngsters hanging around a section of a concrete wall nearby, smoking weed and loudly verbalising their desires to young women peacefully passing by.

The additional fact is this: those young men are beginning their life of crime, surely, if not so slowly, ascending up the totem pole of criminality until the gun and murders become their new way of existence on a daily basis.

Harold and his wife were cleaning up by 7 o'clock Saturday morning when I spoke with them. Harold wasn't saying much and his mood was one of raw but subdued anger, the type that forces a man to operate on his own, knowing that a report to the police during a partial sickout or with full staff would be an exercise in futility. A police report, a statement, a log book and nothing happens. Usually.

This year, New York, a mega city with 8.5 million, will record its lowest murder tally in decades. According to a CNN report, 'There have been 278 homicides this year, as of December 17, compared with 325 at the same point last year, a drop of 14.5 per cent, NYPD records show. Among those killed were eight victims of a Halloween attack on a busy Manhattan bike path.

"The tally last peaked in the early 1990s, with more than 2,000 killings annually, according to police figures provided to CNN".


Community involvement


Across relatively much smaller Jamaica, with a population of three million, it seems as if our ultimate objective is to murder over 1,600 annually and place our people and governments in a mindset where no lessening of that rate is ever expected.

Although the Jamaica Constabulary Force does not have the money and material resources and the skill set of the typical New York cop, an increasing number of our people are slowly getting sold on the idea that greater community involvement is the catalyst needed if there is to be a significant reduction in our murder rate.

New York has recorded a drop across all general crimes, while in Jamaica a shop break-in does not make it to the police logs. Another part of the CNN report stated: "'We've seen the lowest number of index crimes here since the '50s,' police Commissioner James O'Neill said at a recent news conference, referring to the crime categories. 'With informed, engaged and empowered communities, we're going to keep pushing those numbers down even further.'"

It's what journalist Ben Brodie calls 'collective security'. where people in communities right across the country organise themselves to protect the porous coastline and other aspects of crime fighting, including praedial larceny, which must have peaked just before Christmas.

"Is four goat mi tie out," said a hillside farmer from the same community. "When mi reach fi move an collect dem, is only pure rope mi si. Mi was getting a sale fi dem fi mi Christmas and fi help out mi daughter kids dem go school in January. Now all dat mash up," he said, while shaking his head ruefully.

Professor Anthony Clayton from the University of the West Indies is dead correct in that we did not utilise the experience in the immediate wake of the 2010 Tivoli incursion to press home against the criminal and the major gang leaders.

Next year, 2018, will be the Jamaica Labour Party administration's time in the crime pressure cooker.