Sat | Jan 23, 2021

Examine the economic factors of crime – Ahmad

Published:Thursday | December 12, 2019 | 12:10 AMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer


At least one emissary is calling for a study to examine the pyscho-social and economic factors of crime, including the disparity of government spending within crime-plagued communities.

British High Commissioner Asif Ahmad, in a one-on-one interview with The Gleaner recently, said that this should be undertaken to aid in better policy making, and in effect curtail the island’s crippling crime and violence rate.

According to the high commissioner, there appears to be no concomitant thrust to pump resources into poverty-stricken communities with burgeoning crime rates and weak infrastructure as the agencies of State continue to do the opposite.

“Where I think it would help government policymakers and the community is to do a study where you look at total government expenditure community by community, and you overlay that against areas of greatest need. Where is the crime rate the highest? Where is there a need for hospital coverage, schools? And you will find that in every place that we’ve looked at, there is a mismatch between places of greatest need and the amount of government expenditure,” Ahmad stated.

“Infrastructure usually goes into places that are already prosperous. There needs to be more intervention in places such as Flankers,” he said in citing an example. “And with that information in front of the community and the policymakers and businesses, you start to realise that there is no wonder there is a problem because the per capita investment is lower.”

Noting that he believes that there is what he describes as “real commitment” from the Government, the opposition, and the private sector, who recognise the challenge of crime, he reiterated, however, the call for good policy thinking and commitment to a national crime plan.

Other elements Affecting the nation

While accepting that there is need for the requisite tactical interventions, which are the prerogative of the military and the police, Ahmad said that there are other socio-economic elements affecting the nation, which must be addressed from a criminological viewpoint.

“They have a number of plans, and there are many tactical interventions. And yes, the suppression part is working; suppression has its place. But equally, these people need livelihoods. They need to have the land-ownership issues sorted out as well so they have some stake in the community. If they are not going to steal electricity, then they need to find a way of having affordable power,” he said.

“You can’t have a situation where sewage runs through their front door. These things all matter,” he added as he referenced the ‘Broken Glass’ theory.

“I don’t want the operational plan. What I really want to see is that there is an integrated approach to dealing with these challenges. So if you take health education, the way in which countries spend their money; the expenditure that people make in the protection of children, all of these things having to come together because it is not just the Minister of National Security or Chris Tufton’s problem,” he said.

“The problems are not individual units. The units of governments are created worldwide so that they harness the taxpayers’ money and bring that money to bear on where the public wants those funds to be spent,” the high commissioner argued.

In further pointing out the effect of crime on every sector of the Jamaican society, Ahmad said that not even embassies are spared, and the expenditure on security is a strain on resources which could be better spent elsewhere on developmental activities for the nation.

“All embassies have to spend money on security. But I spend more on security in my high commission than I do on the Jamaicans that we hire to work for us, to do our day-to-day job, up to 30 per cent more,” he revealed.

He is convinced that if his security bill could be reduced by 10 per cent, he could hire more Jamaicans to do policy work on assessment of where the needs are in relation to economic experts, climate change experts, or even another person on his trade team.