Sun | Dec 16, 2018

Communities won't utilise their assets, so crimes increase

Published:Thursday | December 31, 2015 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin
Forensic investigator working at a crime scene.
Jamaican policemen examine a crime scene along Spanish Town Road, Kingston.
Here's an example of the use that can be put to a community centre, one of the assets of the community. Two O-SAY volunteers assist an elderly lady to climb the stairs at the Greenvale Community Centre to get her free medical check-up.
A woman weeps at a crime scene in St Mary.

Several communities across Jamaica are not making the best use of their resources, including playing fields, churches and community centres, and one local crime-trend analyst believes this could be contributing to the rise in crime.

A recent Geographical Information System Community Assets Data (GISCAD) survey undertaken by the Violence Prevention Alliance (VPA) and other partners has revealed that resources in several areas across the island are underutilised.

VPA Chair Dr Elizabeth Ward said this could be a contributor to the spiral in crime and violence, especially in rural areas.

In an interview with The Gleaner, she pointed to the worrying murder trend and indicated that several gaps needed to be addressed.

"For example, when we looked at Mt Salem [in Montego Bay] recently, we looked at the assets, which showed us it had 10 bars, 42 commercial centres, 300 derelict buildings, 900 houses, 50 fire hydrants, 401 utility poles, 200 unfinished buildings, 11 schools, 15 restaurants and five playground areas," she said.

"What this data is showing us is that we are not utilising assets in the communities. This data is not fixed because the study is ongoing, but the bottom line is that we have lots of community centres, basketball courts, football fields, churches - all of which are, for the most part, totally underutilised. We have to think of it [as] more than just a football field or a centre, but creating sustainable activities that will assist youth," she declared.

Ward told The Gleaner that the GISCAD study had been going on for the last five years, in more than 50 volatile communities across the island. She indicated that data for the study, which started in Kingston, was also received from Clarendon, St James and Westmoreland.

In the meantime, she expressed disappointment that more was not done to create sustained social-intervention programmes in rural areas, an issue she had raised previously.

In an interview with The Gleaner at the start of the year, Ward had called for more intervention programmes in rural areas.


Citing St James and Clarendon as areas of concern, Ward had said that over the years, intervention initiatives have been primarily carried out in Kingston communities. She said a renewed shift is needed in other parishes.

"I commend the work that was done last year by the various stakeholders, particularly in the schools. However, we have to sustain them and reduce the failing along the way, because these failures are what feed into the environment, resulting in big problems in areas where they didn't exist. Clarendon and St James are primary examples."

Making reference to reports which showed that more than 200 persons have been murdered in St James this year, she said as the country braced for 2016, a holistic approach was needed to tackle crime and violence in Jamaica.

"We weren't surprised at this because the numbers were showing that there was a rural spread," she said.

"There needs to be firm policing, but we don't need harsh policing, and we have to have effective social interventions. The thing is it's not simply a parenting programme or a football programme. There has to be something comprehensive that understands the issues involved and something that leads to an alternative pathway for our youths," Ward charged.

According to the latest Periodic Serious and Violent Crime Review compiled by the Jamaica Constabulary Force, 203 persons have been reported killed in St James between January 1 and the weekend of December 11. This is a 34 per cent jump when compared with the 151 murders recorded for the corresponding period last year.

Since the start of the year and up to last Saturday, the police had recorded 1,192 murders islandwide, a 20 per cent increase when compared with the 967 reported over the corresponding period last year. There have been 677 murders in rural parishes, while 483 were recorded in the Kingston Metropolitan Area.