Sun | Jan 17, 2021

Letter of the Day | Embolden citizen activism against lawbreakers

Published:Monday | September 16, 2019 | 12:00 AM


I found the reasoning and tone of your editorial of September 14, 2019, most astonishing, shocking even. In the editorial, you discussed how ordinary, “law-abiding citizens are bothered by the scale of recklessness displayed by motorists, especially those who operate public passenger vehicles” and the emerging practice of persons using their phone cameras to record traffic violations and share them with the police. Essentially, you “urged caution in this attempt to exploit what looks like sheer citizen activism”.

In a country with an extraordinarily high crime rate and where the ‘informa fi dead’ culture is an engrained part of the national psyche, reinforced by ignoramuses through popular dancehall music, this is a most egregious stance to take by a newspaper with a long and distinguished record of sound and well-thought-out editorials.

In my opinion, the reasoning and tone of your editorial will have the effect of discouraging citizens from cooperating with the police in dealing with what essentially is criminal behaviour.

We need to find solutions to our high crime rate and your editorial does nothing to help in this regard. The spectre of drivers of public passenger vehicles who “regularly menace other motorists and pedestrians” did not occur overnight. It started out with small infractions by individual drivers, only for them to graduate to being a menace because the small infractions went unpunished and eventually became accepted by society in general.


I view this new “citizen activism”, as you describe it, as an opportunity to influence a reversal of the reluctance of citizens to cooperate with the police in giving information about criminal activity.

It is a small step but, eventually, it could lead to big changes in the national psyche with respect to cooperating with the police. This, in turn, would likely contribute to a much-desired reduction in crime.

Without citizens being willing to give evidence, the justice system will be hard-pressed to make an effective and lasting impact on the crime rate.

Any discourse that has the effect of dissuading citizens from reporting crimes that they witness reinforces the ‘informa fi dead’ culture.