Rowan Edwards: Join church in fight against crime
Crime and violence should not be left to National Security Minister Peter Bunting or to the police force alone; crime fighting should be everybody's business. Crime is not only affecting the People's National Party or the Jamaica Labour Party; it is a monster that is affecting everybody and should be addressed by all well-thinking Jamaicans.
Crime fighting should not be politicised. No politician should gain scores because of the negative trend of crime and violence, because crime and violence is affecting all. It is, therefore, important for us to join together to deal with it from a united front.
When a politician needs a seat in the Houses of Parliament, you see him dressing his people in orange and green in large quantities, with bodies protruding from buses and trucks, blocking streets with horns and heavy excitement because a politician wants a seat in Jamaica House. It should be with the same fervour, the same excitement, that all politicians ought to join the people in the streets, sending a positive message to all perpetrators of crime and violence that we need a change and they should stop their wickedness.
husbands, fathers missing
Jamaica is fast becoming a country of orphans and widows, because the blood of many husbands and fathers have stained the streets of the city, and many of our children are suffering because they don't have a father figure in the home.
With 80 per cent of our children living without father figures in their home, there is no doubt this is a contributing reason why crime is running out of control. When children don't have fathers to emulate, they turn to gangs who train them to become menaces to our society.
One of our primary schools in Spanish Town stated that more than 100 boys in that school were delinquents. Hence, these boys are strong recruits for gangs.
Crime and violence for too long has been a central point of discussion. However, at the end of these discussions, very often, few, if any, solutions are offered that make real change.
I must use this opportunity to thank the leadership of the Ministry of National Security, specifically Minister Bunting, as well as the police force, whose efforts and assiduous work have seen a real reduction in crime over the past four years. However, can we feel comfortable with the rate of decline, The Gleaner of December 5, 2014 states the following:
"Up to last weekend, the JCF Periodic Serious and Violent Crimes Review indicated that all major crimes continued to trend downwards. The murder toll stood at 926, compared to 1,101 for the corresponding period last year; shooting was 1,014 incidents, as against 1,159 in 2013; rape was 593, down from 757; while aggravated assault was 610, a reduction of 137 when compared with the corresponding 2013 figures. Seventy-nine persons were reportedly murdered last month. Of the 926 murders reported up to November 29, a total of 557 of these killings were categorised as gang-related, 292 were criminal-related (not gang-related), domestic violence accounted for 48, mob killing 10, while the motives for another 19 are not yet established. The gun continues to be the most popular murder weapon of choice. It was used in at least 656 of the reported cases so far this year."
Jodi-Ann Gilpin, in her Gleaner article of January 22 2015, stated that even with the 2014 murder rate recorded as 1,005 (the lowest figure in a decade) and 195 fewer than 2013 the country, however, would need to reduce murders by a cumulative of 305 over the next two years (based on a 2.8-million population estimate) to attain the target set by the social partnership.
As I thought to how this could be achieved, it was clear that the activities of the minister and the police force would not be enough. Instead, it would require the efforts of all. By all, I mean all the politicians, churches, schools and every Jamaican to make a conscious decision that we need change.
For political events, social and economic distinctions are lost for a few hours of jumping at a gathering where party colours of orange and green fly, but what if, instead, together they join forces to make a public stand.
What if the churches would call out their membership to stand in solidarity for a change? Can we decide that we want our future to be different?
When the first murder occurred in Genesis 4:8, God stopped his activities in heaven and took time out to have a meeting with the murderer. Likewise, we need to communicate a clear path and direction to those who are caught in the cycle of crime and violence.
Our first action must be a demonstration of unity, an activity that reflects that we accept that this is our country and we are jointly responsible for all actions in our country. As Edmund Burke stated, "... The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
Second is to encourage conscious decision making that will cause the mothers, the wives, the daughters among to speak up of what they know. It is a decision they are called on to make in order to spare lives. We must communicate clearly the cost of doing nothing, showing the pictures of bodies lying in our streets (pictures speak a thousand words).
We must speak to the cost of prisons and what this takes away from our budget for hospitals and schools. We must speak of the ages of the lives lost (especially those of our children). The cost must be weighed in terms of the effects of crime on communities, as businesses close their doors out of fear and intimidation.
We must also show the end results: that crime kills our income stream from one of our few revenue-generating sources such as tourism.
This act of communication must be clear and concise, spoken in the language that each individual can clearly understand, not with grandstanding but with empathy for the loss suffered by the thousands who have been victims.
Real solutions should be called for at these sessions:
- Payment and amnesty for guns.
- Payment for identifying locations of persons of interest.
- Adjustment for penalties in law for harbouring perpetrators of crime.
- Leniency, to some extent, for those who will turn themselves over for prosecution.
- All politicians must come on board just like when they are running for a seat in Parliament.
- All well-thinking Jamaicans, led by the Church, must come together in town hall meetings and community gatherings echoing the sound against violence.
- Establishing mentoring programmes.
- Promote farming.
- Erect proper surveillance camera system across the country.
According to the Gleaner article cited above, there was, on average, 3,143 violent crimes committed in 2014. If each violent act was committed by a different person, there would only be 3,143 criminals in the country. Even if we attributed the crimes to gang elements or influences, the total numbers of individuals who are part of a gang may only be about 15,000.
With a population of more than 2.6 million, this means there are more than 2.4 million law-abiding citizens in the country. Why do we allow this small subset to continue holding us ransom? Let us do something today and let the effort begin with me and with you. Let us become the catalyst for change. Jamaica, I challenge you.
- Bishop Dr Rowan Edwards is a leader of the Spanish Town Ministers' Fraternal. Email feedback to email@example.com