FIGHT­ING CRIME in a BREED­ING GROUND FOR CRIM­I­NALS

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Arnold Ber­tram Con­trib­u­tor Arnold Ber­tram is a his­to­rian and for­mer Cabi­net min­is­ter. His most re­cent book is ‘Nor­man Manley and The Mak­ing of Mod­ern Ja­maica’. His email ad­dress is:re­dev.atb@gmail.com.

THE RE­CENT surge in the mur­der rate and, specif­i­cally, the shoot­ing of a nine-mon­thold baby have left the so­ci­ety in a state of shock and height­ened in­se­cu­rity.

The per­pe­tra­tors of th­ese crimes can be traced di­rectly to the breed­ing ground for crim­i­nals, which is now an in­te­gral part of the so­cial fab­ric of in­de­pen­dent Ja­maica. For some time, we have been pro­duc­ing crim­i­nals at a much faster rate than we have been able to en­hance the ca­pac­ity of the State to ef­fec­tively man­age crime and en­force pub­lic order.

This breed­ing ground is rooted in the his­toric fail­ure of suc­ces­sive ad­min­is­tra­tions to cre­ate a sus­tain­able base for ru­ral de­vel­op­ment, and this has re­sulted in sus­tained ru­ral-ur­ban mi­gra­tion, first to the cap­i­tal city and then to emerg­ing ur­ban cen­tres in each par­ish.

Over time, this had pro­duced a pro­lif­er­a­tion of un­planned ur­ban cen­tres in which squat­ter set­tle­ments mush­roomed with­out light, san­i­ta­tion or pipe-borne water. In this an­ti­so­cial en­vi­ron­ment, an­ti­so­cial be­hav­iour be­came the norm, and ur­ban youth, with­out the ed­u­ca­tion or train­ing to pre­pare them for the world of work, quickly de­gen­er­ated into a lumpen­pro­le­tariat.

ROLE OF PEASANTRY IN NA­TIONAL DE­VEL­OP­MENT

It seems in­ex­pli­ca­ble that the Ja­maican po­lit­i­cal class, elected by univer­sal adult suf­frage for more than seven decades, has failed so badly to im­ple­ment the pro­grammes re­quired to op­ti­mise the role of the peasantry in na­tional de­vel­op­ment by pro­vid­ing ac­cess to land, ir­ri­ga­tion, mar­kets and tech­nol­ogy to the lev­els re­quired for the mod­erni­sa­tion of do­mes­tic agri­cul­ture.

The 1970s of­fered a ray of hope when the gov­ern­ment of the day launched am­bi­tious pro­grammes to im­ple­ment land re­form, cre­ate an is­land­wide mar­ket­ing ser­vice to trans­form the food sec­tor, and en­able Ja­maicans to grow what they eat and eat what they grow.

In the fol­low­ing decade, the peasantry was dealt a ma­jor blow when the suc­ceed­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion placed a US$100-mil­lion project to grow and ex­port win­ter veg­eta­bles in the hands of an Is­raeli ad­ven­turer who later ended up in a US prison. To­day, Ja­maica pays a whop­ping im­port bill for food, and our school-feed­ing pro­grammes, as well as the fare we serve our vis­i­tors, are yet to be in­te­grated with do­mes­tic agri­cul­ture.

THE DE­PRE­CI­A­TION OF THE VALUE OF LIFE

The con­se­quences for the ne­glect of the peasantry are both eco­nomic and so­cial. The present so­cial dis­ar­ray in ru­ral Ja­maica is rooted in fail­ure to de­velop the peasantry, which his­tor­i­cally has been the bearer of the Protes­tant val­ues and at­ti­tudes “that char­ac­terised ru­ral Ja­maica [and nur­tured] am­bi­tion, thrift, fear of debt, sav­ings, de­vo­tion to fam­ily, re­li­gios­ity and mod­er­a­tion in all things”, and, above all, in­cul­cated the value of life.

This was re­flected in the low mur­der rate in the two cen­turies pre­ced­ing in­de­pen­dence.

Jonathan Dalby, in his study ‘Crime and Pun­ish­ment in Ja­maica ...’, in­forms that be­tween 1756 and 1856, there were 466 homi­cides, an av­er­age of fewer than five per year. How­ever, some of th­ese homi­cides re­sulted from poi­sonous po­tions pre­pared by obeah man. In the end, only 59 de­fen­dants were found guilty of mur­der.

Then, in the pe­riod “from 18801915, the num­ber of mur­ders ... av­er­aged be­low 20 per year, and be­tween 1915 and 1958, the num­bers rose ... to be­tween 25 and 30 per year” (Michelle John­son). Un­til in­de­pen­dence, the mur­der rate re­mained rel­a­tively low.

SPIKE IN MUR­DER RATE

The sharp in­crease in Ja­maica’s mur­der rate came with the con­scrip­tion of the lumpen­pro­le­tariat into the crim­i­nal mili­tias that fought to es­tab­lish the po­lit­i­cal gar­risons whose mem­bers will­ingly risked their lives and killed their fel­low Ja­maicans for ex­clu­sive rights to free hous­ing, health care, wel­fare grants, as well as ac­cess to gov­ern­ment con­tracts, which the po­lit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tive chan­nelled from the State to the con­stituency.

The mur­der rate rose even higher in the run-up to the 1980 elec­tion, as th­ese po­lit­i­cally aligned mili­tias used their ac­cess to the United States to carve out a huge un­der­ground econ­omy based on the trans-ship­ment of il­le­gal drugs from South Amer­ica, through Ja­maica, to mar­kets in North Amer­ica. In the 1980s, the un­der­ground econ­omy out­per­formed the for­mal econ­omy, and as it ex­panded, so did the need for the ser­vices of those who showed an ap­ti­tude for mur­der.

Over the last three decades, our un­der-re­sourced and un­der­per­form­ing ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing sys­tem has been the ma­jor con­trib­u­tor to the ex­pan­sion of breed­ing ground for crim­i­nals. The first warn­ing came as early as 1999 in a study by Pat An­der­son, which showed that of all “the youth un­em­ployed in the 15-29 age group, 73.7 per cent had no ed­u­ca­tional cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of any kind, although 26.8 per cent had four years or more of sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion”.

More re­cently, the 2014 Eco­nomic and So­cial Sur­vey of Ja­maica (ESSJ) showed that the num­ber of the 15-29 age group who are not en­rolled in any train­ing in­sti­tu­tion and are nei­ther work­ing nor look­ing for work has ex­panded to 388,800. In 2014, it was this co­hort that bred the crim­i­nals who were, in the main, re­spon­si­ble for 237 mur­ders, 344 shoot­ings, 898 rob­beries, 364 break-ins and 190 cases of ag­gra­vated as­sault. – ESSJ

WHAT IS TO BE DONE

The most ur­gent pri­or­ity is the train­ing of our po­lice to global stan­dards in order to strengthen their ca­pac­ity to ef­fec­tively man­age crime and en­force law and pub­lic order. While this will ini­tially lead to in­creased ar­rests and in­car­cer­a­tion, if noth­ing is done to si­mul­ta­ne­ously trans­form the breed­ing ground for crime, the cost of in­car­cer­a­tion will quickly cut into the bud­get for ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing. In Bri­tain, Thatcher’s Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment, which took of­fice in 1979, in­creased the prison pop­u­la­tion from 46,994 to 60,000 by 1993, yet in that same pe­riod, the num­ber of of­fences com­mit­ted dou­bled.

Equally ur­gent is as­sign­ing the

Among un­em­ployed youth in the 15-29 age group, 73.7 per cent had no ed­u­ca­tional cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of any kind, although 26.8% had four years or more of sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion. – 1999 study by Pat An­der­son

JDF the pri­mary re­spon­si­bil­ity of en­forc­ing mu­nic­i­pal laws and main­tain­ing pub­lic order, par­tic­u­larly in the trans­porta­tion cen­tres and mar­kets where the lumpen­pro­le­tariat thrive and carry out their crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties with im­punity.

Given the his­toric role of the Church in ed­u­ca­tion, the State should fa­cil­i­tate a part­ner­ship to en­sure that ev­ery class­room has a teacher trained to global stan­dards with the ca­pac­ity to de­liver the cur­ricu­lum, as well as to pre­pare stu­dents for re­spon­si­ble cit­i­zen­ship, and to in­cul­cate the value of life and of a clean and or­derly en­vi­ron­ment.

Seize ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to ex­pand en­trepreneur­ship to cre­ate more stake­hold­ers in Ja­maican so­ci­ety. The present con­cen­tra­tion of wealth in the top one per cent and the re­sul­tant poverty will only make the crim­i­nal un­der­ground econ­omy, which now in­cludes scam­ming, even more at­trac­tive.

Fi­nally, we must com­mu­ni­cate more ef­fec­tively the suc­cesses of our ‘ris­ing stars’, not only in en­ter­tain­ment and sports, but in academia and en­trepreneur­ship as well.

Our young peo­ple need to see tele­vi­sion pro­grammes of the kind hosted by Ian Boyne on Sun­day af­ter­noons, as well as those on TVJ’s ‘Smile Ja­maica’, which show­case young Ja­maicans, par­tic­u­larly those from in­ner-city com­mu­ni­ties who choose to be law-abid­ing and demon­strate the ca­pac­ity to over­come ma­jor ob­sta­cles to achieve phe­nom­e­nal suc­cess in busi­ness and pro­fes­sional life.

Th­ese pro­grammes should be de­vel­oped into doc­u­men­taries to show the role played by sup­port­ive fam­i­lies and men­tors, as well as the chal­lenges posed at the com­mu­nity level. Then and only then will we be­gin to trans­form the breed­ing ground into an en­abling en­vi­ron­ment.

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