Crime and violence prevails in three main areas of Jamaica: Kingston, Montego Bay and Spanish Town. However, if one should analyze reports on crime and violence after 2010 throughout the island, then a conclusion can be made that there is a crescendo in criminal activities in the Western part of the island.
Violations of the law implicates not just to residents in these parishes, but also to the economy of the country. Why? 71.6% of the countries GDP is serviced based and more than 51% is tourism. Therefore, investors will be dissuaded to do business in the island. This will reduce local investors and foreign direct investment (FDI). Moreover, the perception of safety in the country is also low, thus increasing the need to leave for safer areas, at home or abroad; increasing brain drain.
Before I journey into my 4 ways to reduce crime and violence in Jamaica, I want to take this paragraph to say that the government has been trying to combat crime. Through increased patrolling of criminal hotpots, create new divisions to deal with specific crimes and to increase the number of officers. However, these are reaction based. Meaning, government initiatives react to crime and violence committed.
What difference can I propose? As a resident of West Kingston and a student in the government department at U.W.I, I have been blessed to see the underlying reasons why my peers commit deviant acts, the measures taken by the government and research best practices of other countries with crime.
The four measures ways are investing in community empowerment, focus on petty offenders, identify deviant behaviors from high school, increase diaspora businesses and increase opportunities for social mobility. Also, most steps are focusing on a bottom-up approach.
Focus Petty Offenders
When I say petty offenders I am also speaking about first time offenders. What is important for the system is to not just refocus efforts to a qualitative and rehabilitative, but for the correctional system to objectively understand why a person committed a crime and to create mechanisms that focus on getting the offenders’ mind and action out of that situations. For example, if someone stole. Then it is best to ascertain the context of the crime and then try to provide mechanisms that will allow for economic empowerment.
This approach is asking the police and probation system to see and treat all criminals as a person first and not as a criminal first. This will require law enforcement officers to build relationships with persons for the greater good. This will reduce the labeling theory effect and self-fulfilling prophesy associated with being labeled a criminal.
Identify Criminal Behaviors from High School
Identifying criminal behavior in high school requires policing not just from law enforcers but also from tall those apart of the secondary education system. This includes teachers and other members of staff. Moreover, what I am saying is not just to identify the “black sheep”, but also to provide practical qualitative measures to rehabilitate identified students.
The partnership required to identify students is not just behavior at school, but also that at home. Therefore, in the best interest of the country, schools must develop relationships with parents/guardians. This is important to measure the degree of “badness” and its causes.
The main purpose of identifying is to rehabilitate and guide students. Students who are malevolent do not need to be reminded that they have problems, they want to feel and know that they have all the opportunities as any other student.
Invest in Community Empowerment
These initiatives must me geared towards personal development and social re-engineering of the minds within the community, as many youths have never born outside of their community. Therefore, community empowerment is taking aspects of the world too them. This can be accomplished through competitions, training and outings (to expose the minds of the community).
Additionally, many community do not have a functional community center. This should not be so. For example, the Community center in Denham Town is in need of renovation and so is the sporting complex associated with the community center. This is the case in numerous areas where violence prevail. The community center should act as he hub that joins communities and provide empowerment through training and competitions, along with other initiatives.
Importantly, these initiatives should not be imposed on communities, they should be a collaborative effort that allows for the community to be a part of the planning and execution. For example, Police Youth Clubs are great, but many youths do not want to be associated with the “Police” aspect of the youth club. What I am saying is to brand these initiatives in such a way that it feels and operates in a bottom up approach, yet allow government representatives to be a part of the process.
Moreover, there are many communities based initiatives and organizations in each community. Efforts should be made just to provide economic support for these initiatives, but also to encourage these initiatives to work together and reduce initiatives with similar agenda to increase diversity.
Increase Opportunities for Social Mobility
With high employment, bureaucracy associated with starting a business and the perception of nepotism in employment system are prevalent in developing countries, including Jamaica. Additionally, today’s youth are millennials and have a plethora of devices that open our minds to the best and worst of the world. What we are most afraid of is failure.
Consequently, we will exhaust all means to win. Apply this succinct theory to survival. We do not want to be economically or socially marginalized. Based on the above and having an understanding that survival s primordial, we will cheat the system to win it. This, to some extent, is alluding to the type of criminal activities taking place today (and the justification given by youth who are caught). This includes criminal acts such as cyber-crime.
Also, our government need to admit that there are prejudices within the system and work with Jamaicans to increase efficiency and equity in our system. The system needs to be change to allow meritocracy based on work.
Crime should be tackled at the grassroots level. Crime reduction strategies should be tailored to affected communities, communities not yet affected by violence and be proactive by preempting crime. Also, in dealing with criminals, the system should work with them to understand their perspective while empowering them not become re-offenders.
Crime cannot be stopped, but it can be reduced. People will always deviate from the law. What is important is that deviation is preempted by the state and that the deviant is rehabilitated and empowered above his/her state of being a deviant. What are your views on the issue?
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