Let’s not politi­cise the crime is­sue

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - Jae­vion Nel­son is a youth de­vel­op­ment, HIV and huma- rights ad­vo­cate. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­erjm.com and jae­vion@gmail.com.

THE HYPOCRISY mas­querad­ing as deep con­cern about crime and vi­o­lence is ir­ri­tat­ing. I sin­cerely wish we would re­sist the urge – that temp­ta­tion that we yield to ev­ery so of­ten – to politi­cise such a grave is­sue as crime and vi­o­lence. Like last year, and the year be­fore, and the year be­fore that, hun­dreds of per­sons died while we re­main un­con­cerned about the state of af­fairs in our coun­try un­til it pleased our pol­i­tics.

Why are we so shame­lessly re­lent­less in our pur­suit to politi­cise ev­ery bloody thing? How many more re­ports of mur­ders do we need be­fore we pause to re­flect on our at­ti­tudes and our con­tri­bu­tion, or lack thereof, to ad­dress­ing th­ese press­ing mat­ters? Are we re­ally that cal­lous about the vast num­ber of peo­ple who are be­ing mur­dered? What do we need to jolt our con­scious­ness and col­lec­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity to play a more ac­tive role in mak­ing our com­mu­ni­ties safer?

Since Fe­bru­ary 26, peo­ple who were once deaf­en­ingly si­lent are now over­whelm­ing us with their guilt be­cause they’ve seem­ingly had an epiphany – chil­dren, women, and men are dy­ing daily! All of a sud­den, peo­ple are deeply con­cerned, and are stri­dent about hold­ing the Gov­ern­ment ac­count­able. They claim crime and vi­o­lence is spi­ralling out of con­trol and the Gov­ern­ment is do­ing noth­ing, and they don’t have a so­lu­tion. I find it hard to think that there are peo­ple who re­ally be­lieve that any gov­ern­ment can mirac­u­lously re­duce crime and vi­o­lence overnight, to the ex­tent that we would be able to sleep with our doors open! It is un­canny the things we pay at­ten­tion to.

The truth is, much of what is be­ing touted as our dis­quiet about the sit­u­a­tion, is re­ally pol­i­tick­ing. The prac­tice is vul­gar and dis­taste­ful. We ought to chal­lenge our­selves to do bet­ter. I can’t imag­ine how peo­ple who are di­rectly af­fected, who are griev­ing, must feel when they see us be­hav­ing the way we are – scor­ing cheap po­lit­i­cal points to ap­pear more con­cerned about the plight of oth­ers, and more ca­pa­ble than the other party.

NO STRAT­EGY OR SO­LU­TION

Un­for­tu­nately, there is no strat­egy or so­lu­tion to crime that will re­sult in any dras­tic re­duc­tion in mur­ders any time soon, and cer­tainly not overnight. We will have to con­tain our ea­ger­ness and be a bit more pa­tient. Notwith­stand­ing, it’s im­por­tant that we al­low the strat­egy that is al­ready in place to con­tinue to work while calling on the Gov­ern­ment to do more. We can’t keep calling for a ‘new’ strat­egy ev­ery year and af­ter ev­ery elec­tion be­cause we feel crime and vi­o­lence have spi­ralled out of con­trol. Let’s pay at­ten­tion to the ev­i­dence and use that in­for­ma­tion to guide how we ap­proach the mat­ter – not on feel­ings but on the re­al­i­ties on the ground and ap­ply­ing the lessons we have learnt.

Thank­fully, mur­ders have only in­creased by 1 per cent na­tion­ally up to Au­gust, ac­cord­ing to data from the JCF. There are, how­ever, se­ri­ous con­cerns about St James and neigh­bour­ing parishes where lot­tery scam­ming seem to have a role in a num­ber of mur­ders. The po­lice and all ci­ti­zens will have to re­main vig­i­lant.

We need to do more than clamp down on lot­tery scam­ming if we want to be­gin to have a dent in this grave prob­lem out in the west. We need to do go be­yond the crim­i­nal­ity of the ac­tiv­ity and ac­knowl­edge the hard truths about some of the root causes of the sit­u­a­tion. Lot­tery scam­ming, as I un­der­stand it, is not merely about peo­ple be­ing cov­etous. It’s also about peo­ple and their fam­i­lies hav­ing ac­cess to money, to wealth which seem in­ac­ces­si­ble to them in the for­mal econ­omy.

Prime Min­is­ter An­drew Hol­ness will do well if he leaves a legacy of se­cur­ing eco­nomic jus­tice for ev­ery­one when­ever he demits of­fice. We have failed mis­er­ably in this re­gard.

If you think about it, you will recog­nise that we move through waves of il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties that help to keep fam­i­lies and the econ­omy afloat. As a child, it was the drug trade – co­caine and ganja. It was read­ily ac­ces­si­ble to ev­ery­one and guar­an­teed them a bet­ter life than they were liv­ing. It was a more sure way to take peo­ple out of poverty. I heard many sto­ries of fam­i­lies ben­e­fit­ing from the pro­ceeds of the drug trade. In fact, many of us or peo­ple in our fam­ily have also ben­e­fited from its pro­ceeds.

We must see eco­nomic jus­tice as a na­tional im­per­a­tive. There is no so­lu­tion to our crime and vi­o­lence prob­lem if the for­mal econ­omy and jus­tice sys­tem aren’t ac­ces­si­ble and ben­e­fi­cial to ev­ery­one.

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