Jennifer Goodall, Guest Columnist
Jamaicans have been lamenting the high crime statistics for the past several decades. We have changed governments, tried several ministers of national security, and appointed several police commissioners, with varying degrees of success.
We have perfected the blame game and still have not dealt with the problem decisively. Educated people put on political blinkers and practise a level of sophistry that is simply amazing.
I have been convinced for a very long time that the high crime statistics will continue until the people believe that they have had enough. Too often, entire communities turn a blind eye to the money source, and as long as they share in the proceeds of crime, then everything is all right. They will fight to the end to protect their dons yet cower in fear when the same dons send for their young girls and boys to be used as sexual playthings.
A big part of the problem lies in our attitudes to the police. We allow the criminals to have their way with us, but we are quick to block roads and report the policemen to the media and the authorities if police excesses are perceived. I am not condoning police excesses; instead, there should be the same zero tolerance for criminal behaviour.
Recently, there has been a spate of murders in western Kingston. The police commissioner reacted by changing the police commander. No one will admit publicly the names of the persons who are committing the crimes, but according to the residents, the police know who they are, so they must arrest them. But will the witnesses testify in court?
When the policemen apprehend criminals and the cases are called up in court, very often the witnesses do not show up for the trials. If the witnesses do turn up, they change their stories. Bad men get away again.
WASTE OF RESOURCES
There was a spate of shootings in Lakes Pen, a township near Spanish Town. The police have an armoured car parked in the area night and day. There is another police car parked permanently near Shelter Rock in Spanish Town. The reason for these mobile police stations is to prevent residents from murdering each other.
No doubt, the innocent residents are happy to have the police in their midst acting as a buffer, but because of a few criminals, the country's resources are being directed towards crime prevention rather than towards educating our people and establishing infrastructure. I am not blaming the police. I am blaming the irresponsible mothers and fathers who bring these criminals into the world.
More than 20 years ago, the crime statistics were showing that domestic violence accounted for one in three murders. Recently, we heard that gang-related violence accounted for more than 60 per cent of the murders. If we add the two statistics together, more than 90 per cent of the murders are committed by persons who are known to each other.
While the poor state of the economy can give rise to increased robberies, the high murder rates are inextricably linked to our value systems. The high crime levels are said to be having a negative effect on investment and economic growth, so we are in a catch-22 situation.
TARGET VALUE SYSTEMS
I believe that efforts in reducing crime must target our value systems, and these must start at basic-school level. The police force should simultaneously work overtime to remove the dysfunctional, mentally impaired, trigger-happy, stressed-out and corrupt cops from their midst.
Every police group that takes to the streets should first use Taser stun guns to reduce the unacceptably high levels of 'accidental' shootings. Jamaica needs to make greater use of electronic surveillance systems. The Church should be encouraged to play a greater role in the lives of our citizens.
Our culture is based on messianic leadership, so I am recommending that the governor general, Sir Patrick Allen, take charge of the Values and Attitudes Campaign. This is a chance for him to demonstrate true leadership and not be a mere figurehead. He is untainted by politics and has his roots in the Church. Leave the politicians out of it because they are too divisive. Have the programme properly funded and let us take back Jamaica from the criminals.
Some of us have nowhere to go, so we will stay here and fight for our country. If we as a people do not stand up for something, we are going to lose our lives for nothing.
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