Sun | Jan 21, 2018

Letter of the Day | Is drug link fuelling crime?

Published:Wednesday | February 22, 2017 | 12:00 AM


Violent crime has become part of Jamaica's daily conversation. Thankfully, apathy appears not to be in the discourse on how to cull this monster, and one way or the other, Jamaicans have a view on prevention and reduction of crime.

Allow me to posit that the freedoms we enjoy contribute to crime in ways we have not thought about. A relatable scenario is that any adult (children as well?) in Jamaica can easily access and use at least three mind-altering sources of chemicals without breaking any laws! Alcohol, marijuana and over-the-counter medications, such as cough medicine, not to mention glue, are all readily available. Had singly, each can be potent and create hallucinogenic states; cumulative effects are undocumented and are therefore even more frightening.

Many of us shake our heads in disbelief at the brutality meted out to some victims, and indeed, as if to retain our hope in humanity, we are quick to say the perpetrators "must've been on drugs". The awful reality is that while many may indeed be users of illegal drugs, nobody knows how many are under the influence of permissible agents had singly or cumulatively.

Are we capturing true scientific data on apprehended suspects? Are they routinely subjected to breathalyser testing, marijuana screening? Surely, even in the much-debated proposed preventative detention, there could be included some recommendations, using non-invasive means, to document at least marijuana and alcohol abuse. Indeed, the threatened and the detainee could be made to benefit from screening data pointing to substance abuse.

In contemplating solutions to our crime problem, a multidimensional approach has been advocated, and that is to be congratulated. Gang and domestic killings are the big culprits, we are told, and most hope for a silver-bullet panacea approach borne out through primarily the efforts of the security forces and justice system, while realistically accepting that crime is here to stay.

Nonetheless, we could add to the effort with the help of criminologists and legislators, through an interministerial approach, by comprehensively examining how data gathering on substance abuse at the point of detention can inform procedural and legislative reform to mitigate not solely prohibited breaches, but also perfectly permissible behaviours.