Thu | Nov 30, 2023

SSP Diaries | How informed are we about the crime effort?

Published:Thursday | May 25, 2023 | 12:28 AM
Ramsay McDonald (second right), deputy chairman of the JPS Foundation, speaks with Shando Stephens, Romel Smith, and Isomar Grant, participants in the foundation’s ‘Empowering At-Risk Youths Towards Positive Outcomes’ project during the programme’s
Ramsay McDonald (second right), deputy chairman of the JPS Foundation, speaks with Shando Stephens, Romel Smith, and Isomar Grant, participants in the foundation’s ‘Empowering At-Risk Youths Towards Positive Outcomes’ project during the programme’s launch at the West Jamaica Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Mt Salem, St James, in 2022.

EVERY DAY the media informs us of crimes being committed in our society. No matter the category, what is newsworthy is published. Society has become immune to some crimes. Those bent on committing offences seem to be competing for the ‘crown’ for being the most gruesome, the most successful in carrying out a heist, or defrauding financial institutions of money.

Whether it’s gang activities or otherwise, there appears to be a competition to see who can outdo the other in notoriety. As much as the publication of these deeds inform the public, their frequency, in some cases, serves to embolden those committing the offences, creating a deadly situation where the acts of today are becoming far more dangerous/brazen than those of yesterday. This pattern is not unique to Jamaica, but is a natural result of the lack of sufficient deterrence in a society. Once criminals perceive that the chances of being caught are slim and the gains are there to be had, they will continue to improve upon what they do best, to the detriment of the innocent.

Everyone looks towards the police to curb this monster; no one accepts fully that they are merely a part of the solution. The commissioner and his personnel have reported the trends on many occasions and in recent times, serious and major crimes all appear to be trending downwards. My own observation, over time, is that the significance of this is lost on many; some will start to celebrate; others will downplay the gains made; and there will still be those ‘waiting in the wings’ to see it rise again. The achievements of the police, however, have merely turned down the fire, put the ‘lid’ on the proverbial pot, allowing the contents to ‘simmer’. They cannot do more.

There are 300-plus gangs in Jamaica, according to a report I read some time ago. Using the reported dismantling of some of these as an example, several questions arise. What exactly is meant by the term ‘dismantling’? Have all the elements been put before the courts and the entities no longer exist? Those that survived the process, are they involved in programmes designed to re-socialise them? Perhaps I should start by asking if there are social intervention programmes available across the country that address the mindsets of our at-risk population, to create a more positive way of thinking. If so, how are they doing?

Just as we are bombarded daily in the media with the exploits of the criminals, it is important that the positive achievements of such programmes, if any, be put on centre stage. To address the problem, the approach cannot continue to be one-sided, meaning an unduly and incorrect reliance upon the police to also be involved in re-socialisation and rehabilitation. There is a lot of talk about social interventions. What does this entail? The approach needs to be one that is carefully structured, implemented, managed, monitored, periodically evaluated and results published. The Government needs to be at the helm, and the support must not only involve the public, but also the private sector.

The citizens need to know exactly what is in place to deal with at-risk groups. Are there educational, skills training, jobs, entrepreneurial, social integration training, opportunities in place? Are gang members being engaged on a regular basis, across the country, to try and address behavioural problems? If this is in place, how many youth have availed themselves of the opportunities? Do we have an idea of how many youth fall in the at-risk/gang-based categories? This is critical for planning purposes. Of the programmes that are in place, the public needs to know how many are successful and to what extent, as well as how often they are reviewed for effectiveness, relevance, affordability, and validity.

Creating this sort of awareness in the public space helps citizens to have a better understanding of the problem and be more prepared to play their part in improving their communities. Public awareness bolsters confidence in people, improves their knowledge of what’s happening, and could appeal to their spirit of volunteerism, a much helpful concept, properly applied.

There are some in our society with hidden agendas. They would prefer to have rampant crime; they can be likened to the exponents of fossil fuel exploitation – they are self-centred and do not wish mankind well. Deliberate efforts to improve social intervention activities and having the media do a better job of highlighting positive outcomes, could go a far way in helping to move our country away from producing more criminals and redeeming lost souls. There might be no better example set than that of a gang member turning over a new leaf as a result of making use of a positive opportunity offered. Today, they may be criminals, but tomorrow they are still our people, and responsibility. We need a better understanding of what’s happening.

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