By Jaevion Nelson, Guest Columnist
Crime and violence statistics make a mockery of our goal to become a safe, cohesive and just society. Notwithstanding, structural changes, more heavily armed police deployed and the increasing use of the army have led to the arrest of many of our most wanted men and women, but murders are still at an alarming and horrific level.
First, I must confess that I find the way in which we go about policing and controlling crime in Jamaica rather peculiar. We know very well from studies why there are such high levels of crime and violence.
However, there is hardly ever a discussion about the significance of dons in communities beyond how they are typecast in the traditional media. This, of course, helps to frame our perceptions and often blurs our understanding of their 'purpose'.
FINDING THE RIGHT STRATEGY
It is apparent that too few of us have thought about the effectiveness and sustainability of the strategies used to control crime and violence beyond our reliance on the use of force. Yes, there have been programmes such as the Peace Management Initiative, Violence Prevention Alliance Citizenship Security & Justice Programme and several others, but the investments do not necessarily facilitate their potential. Citizen security and safety is not only about draconian measures. Violence prevention must be supported by approaches that cater to the socio-economic and social justice needs of people.
As we contemplate passing legislation to better police gangs and reduce crime, we must ask ourselves some important questions. Who is a don and why are communities so insistent on protecting them? What happens when they are removed from communities? Do state entities rush to fill the gap or allow the don's understudy to take the reins? Why, in Heaven's name, are they so relevant to so many people? And why do they have currency even when we remove them?
Let us look at the Tivoli incursion. In 2010, the security forces were successful in apprehending Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, who was to be extradited to the United States (at the time). At least 73 civilians were reportedly killed by the security forces.
When the unrest subsided, government officials and representatives of relevant state entities visited the community and made some promises to the people. The public defender took statements and promised to produce a report on the matter. Regrettably, nearly two and a half years later, the residents are still waiting on much needed socio-economic interventions, and despite some announcements, the public defender's report is still not ready.
DEFICIT OF PUBLIC TRUST
For many residents, things were better when Christopher Coke was there. They felt protected and cared for. From what I see in the media, they had someone who they could trust to help facilitate their personal and professional development needs.
The incursion's second anniversary media interviews had one salient message - Christopher Coke still has currency in Tivoli Gardens.
Too often we remove criminal elements, whether by detention or extrajudicial killings, but do nothing to reduce the currency they have in their communities. Seemingly, as my dear friend, Damien Williams, said, "Justice is a commodity the poor cannot afford and should be afforded."
We really have to change the status quo of policing and crime control if we are to improve peace and citizen security. And despite resource constraints, we need to invest in our people; we just cannot afford to engender hopelessness and deviance any longer.
Jaevion Nelson is a youth development, human rights and HIV/AIDS practitioner. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.