Thu | Jan 17, 2019

Hugh Dunbar | Crime and chaos

Published:Sunday | December 31, 2017 | 12:00 AM
A bird's eye view of a section of Ocho Rios, St Ann.

Crime thrives in chaos, and I note this feature in the public environment, a true reflection of the society around it. The Jamaican environment is dirty, chaotic and incoherent, a genuine reflection of our social condition. Most notable are the city streets, lanes, and buildings, which have lost their definition and are falling apart surrounded by new nondescript structures with clutter of necessities for modern living and applied bling. Unfortunately, in addition to being a reflection of our social condition, the crime rate has been on a capitalist trend, increasing each year since Independence, like any good stock, because of the contribution of the environmental conditions.

If we dismantle the environment that generates and supports criminal activity by restoring sidewalks, roadways, street signs and road markings to give public spaces clear definition, we may reduce the stress that leads to murder and mayhem by creating pride of place. We will also create spaces easier to police by eliminating obstructions for access to citizens, police and emergency vehicles. Property line walls by code are not to exceed 1.1 metres; however, we have three- and five-metre walls all over the city. So, enforcement of current laws is an imperative, whether citizen or politician.




Inadequate housing feeds the growth and spread of crime, and inadequate housing solutions have led to more than 70 per cent of all Jamaicans living in 'informal settlements', a political phrase for squatting. Squatting started after emancipation, and does not involve the amenities needed

for a planned community. These communities cannot be 'regularised' as suggested by many politicians because there is no place to locate amenities or utilities. Physical environments that are communities must be capable of being served with water, sewerage and electrical services in addition to open spaces for passive and active recreation, spaces dedicated to commercial and institutional development, without which any community that is formed will fail from the lack of service support. It is the Government that must ensure utilities and amenities are available, monitored and maintained for public safety, order and future growth.

Addressing the problem of crime, therefore, requires national planning to address housing and the environment, ensuring order, room for growth and application to the stated objectives, the most basic ingredients crucial to any successful undertaking. We must begin by defining the templates best suited for community. Otherwise, we will be forever building more jails for our children, while those who can escape the jail called Jamaica will be at the airports going anywhere but here.

- Hugh M. Dunbar is an architect. Send feedback to and