By Garth A. Rattray
Thanks to the violent ousting and deportation of the would-be 'One Don', Christopher Coke, along with relentless (investigative and operational) police intervention, many organised criminal gangs have been forced into retirement (albeit perhaps temporarily). The police hierarchy long ago predicted a spike in independent criminal activities once the gangs were suppressed. We are seeing some of that now.
However, the socio-economic conditions and inner-city acculturation that spawned the dons and organised gangs have not changed. Social re-engineering is not within the ambit of the security forces. Until we address those abiding problems, the dons and some gangs are only hibernating. Until we put in place conditions for real economic viability and economic security, with education and job opportunities, we are going to eventually end up right back where we started. No police force or service operating within a democratic society - one without military rule or dictatorship - can sustain crime suppression for long without concomitant significant social intervention.
Case in point, a true story. Janet (not her real name) and her children are a part of an economically depressed community. Janet lives in a tenement yard and is so honest and kind that she was entrusted with taking care of her ageing landlady's business for years. She collects the rent, pays the bills and manages her affairs.
Enter the ageing landlady's young, unemployed, worthless, moocher relative. He wants to control the old lady's money so that he can do whatever he wants with it. He sponges off his elderly relative and wages psychological war on Janet and her children. He intimidates them with threats of violence, including repeated promises to burn them out. He quarrels constantly and attempted to assault the family with two large stones. Nearby neighbours saved them from serious harm. However, they live in constant terror even though Janet has since relinquished all former responsibilities that she had to the elderly landlady.
theoretical ideas to the poor
The rest of us would simply report the miscreant to the police. After all, that's what they are there for. But Janet lives in a community that would turn on her if she brought the police into the picture. So Janet remains constantly stressed, fearful and at the mercy of this greedy, criminal-minded bum. You could easily read about her and her children one day because she has no one to protect or defend her and she cannot afford to relocate. To Janet and her children, the protective rules and regulations of civil society are merely theoretical ideas seen in civics books, read about in the newspapers and presented in the electronic media.
And so, the legal mechanisms enshrined in our Constitution and chiselled in our laws cannot be accessed by many poor and defenceless families. In many poor communities, the police are usually not allowed to intervene to prevent crime and violence, so we often see the ubiquitous yellow crime scene tape, heavily armed police personnel, numerous vehicles with flashing blue lights, homicide detectives hovering around, distraught family members and friends, crowds of gawking onlookers and hearses carting bodies away to the morgue on the news.
In communities where functioning dons ruled the roost, spurious violence was prohibited for several reasons. The dons wanted to maintain total control over all activities and they wanted to keep 'the heat' out of their jurisdictions.
Our poor and disenfranchised have always depended on one leader or the other. This acculturation has only served to defeat our system of justice and produced generations of downtrodden people. Many in those communities continue to see reproduction as their only way to achieve social status, acceptance, protection and long-term financial security (old age pension).
The dons will eventually return unless society finds ways to empower all our citizens with real independence through discipline, education and employment opportunities.
Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com