Lack of ethics, get-rich-quick mentality at root of St James crimes - pastors
Pastor Knollis King, founder of the Rose Heights Covenant of Peace, has attributed the rising crime rate in St James partially to the fact that many young people in the parish are pursuing a get-rich-quick lifestyle instead of seeking honest employment.
"I do not see a lot of our young people, right now, thinking about getting a job or education ... . They want a million dollars by next morning. They say, 'I don't want to pass any subjects', or 'I know persons who have a degree and they are not working'," said King while addressing a recent Gleaner Editors' Forum on crime in Montego Bay.
"A child as early as four or five years old is using some kinds of [lewd] language, and at 10 years old, they drink, smoke, and they want a phone and they scam. And when a man makes a money, what does he want next? He wants a gun," King added. "There was a time when a young man would want to be a teacher, a policeman, or a lawyer; now he wants to be the don, to be the 'shotta'."
His colleague, Reverend Everton Jackson, head of the Peace Management Initiative (PMI) in St James, is adamant that arresting the current crime wave in the parish, where 200 murders have been recorded since January, must begin with the fostering of good ethics and values in children from an early age.
"We cannot dismiss the importance of the environment within which children are nurtured and grown, including the home. That is considered to be the primary agent of socialisation, and also the school and the church," Jackson said.
Within the last few weeks, alarm has been raised by various stakeholders about the recent spike in murders in St James, including 15 murders committed over a one-week period within Montego Bay and its environs. The murder rate has resulted in several persons calling for the imposition of a state of emergency to curtail the rampant shootings.
Last year, the overall murder tally for St James stood at 212.
Jackson warned that children who are exposed to a criminal or violent environment will come to see such behaviour as normal.
"When children are exposed to a climate that is defined by violence, or defined by indiscipline, then it is true to say that there is the possibility that they will seek to think of those seemingly deviant behaviours to be normative. The onus is on the society to ensure that our children are brought up within the environment that is conducive for their healthy and holistic foundation," he said.
The PMI head added: "I think we have to speak a little stronger as it relates to getting back ethics in our operations. We have lost ethics in the name of practical expediency, [but] we cannot build a society like that. How can we operate in a world without ethics and expect to have a world that is healthy holistically? We have to get back to a point where ethics matters."