Robert Stephens | Curbing crime: a different perspective
Fighting crime by putting more resources in the hands of the security forces is important, but this must go hand in hand with sustainable economic and socio-cultural development.
We spend too much time focusing on crime and we often hear the majority of talk-show hosts and political, as well as private-sector, leaders describe this as our number one problem. I beg to differ, as crime is not a problem but is a symptom of far more deeply rooted problems related to the economy and socio-cultural fabric. Reducing crime is an outcome of sustainable economic and socio-cultural development and, therefore, this is where we should be focusing our mental and physical energy.
There are several critical areas that need to be addressed if we are to achieve a more stable environment in our society where crime levels are reduced to a minimum and sustainable growth becomes a reality.
Some critical socio-cultural interventions are urgently needed to lay a solid foundation for sustainable economic development, including addressing squatter settlements, education, population control and our justice system.
Legitimising marginalised squatter settlements
To begin with, we have neglected and ignored the majority of our people living in squatter settlements when many of these people are legitimately employed persons working in our key industries such as tourism and business process outsourcing who find themselves in communities without the basic services at their disposal.
It is difficult at best when, after working in salubrious environs during the day, they return home to a community with poor or no proper roads, water supply or sewage and garbage-collection services, and few, if any, green areas or schools for their children.
The National Housing Trust (NHT) must immediately begin to allocate a portion of their vast resources to legitimise those squatter settlements by putting in the roads, water and other services, as well as providing titles to persons in exchange for them becoming mortgagees.
This strategy I have personally been involved in as a founding member of the NHT and a World Bank consultant in Ghana and Nigeria and the transforming effects of these actions in marginalised communities were truly remarkable.
I am sure the development agencies such as the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank and the Caribbean Development Bank would be willing to provide advice and expertise in developing and implementing plans to effect the transformation of these communities to convert them to proud law-abiding and legitimate upstanding members of society in a very short time frame, thus reducing crime and violence significantly.
Education, as one of the most important underpinnings of economic, social and cultural development, has long been recognised, but this is even more important today in this world of rapidly changing technology.1
To be able to get even the most basic job today the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic now have computer skills added to the list. The fact is that both adults and children must focus on their own education and training on an ongoing basis to be able to enter the job market and stay employed.
Those who are complacent will soon find that they will be replaced by robots or more qualified and broader educated and skilled persons who add more value and levels of productivity and efficiency to the workplace.
The message here is that all Jamaicans must regard education and training as an ongoing exercise in self-improvement to move forward and upward in income and to achieve their full potential in any organisation.
Several schools are now developing online learning solutions via www.GoStudy.live, with a view to allowing students to access all exam-preparation resource (Online lectures, past papers, past paper solutions, etc) and this needs to be implemented at all schools islandwide.
Justice and respect for law and order
Justice for all must become a centrepiece of life in Jamaica. We cannot continue to have one set of rules for the haves and another for the have-nots. In addition to this, we must simply abide by the law, ensuring that we have just and up-to-date laws that are relevant to the society today.
Achieving these basic principles will require role models and leadership that is prepared to set the example and ensure that they are above reproach and, if not, to at least admit when they are wrong and accept the consequences.
The time for action is NOW. Let's do it together for Jamaica, land we love.
Peace, love, and understanding.