Speech­less on Spur Tree

Jamaica Gleaner - - @ISSUE - The opin­ions on this page, ex­cept for the above, do not nec­es­sar­ily re­flect the views of The Gleaner. To re­spond to a Gleaner ed­i­to­rial, email us: edi­tor@glean­erjm.com or fax: 922-6223. Re­sponses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all re­sponses will

IT’S A re­cur­ring event in Ja­maican life: thieves de­scend­ing on ac­ci­dent scenes to loot and plun­der. Ex­am­ples of such brazen theft have been re­ported in the me­dia from time to time. Looted items range from cook­ing oil and chicken to beer.

Last week, we saw an­other such in­ci­dent in Spur Tree, Manchester. This time it was rum. Video images of an ex­tra­or­di­nary scene of men and women unashamedly walk­ing away from the scene of the ac­ci­dent clutch­ing cases and bot­tles of rum went vi­ral, leav­ing many peo­ple aghast.

Loot­ing is such a spon­ta­neous ac­tiv­ity that even peo­ple who usu­ally abide by the law view it as an op­por­tu­nity and will sus­pend nor­mal be­hav­iour to par­tic­i­pate.

Per­sons have no fear in car­ry­ing out loot­ing be­cause they know there will be no con­se­quences. They have seen it hap­pen with im­punity over and over again. In this re­cent case, there is ev­ery in­di­ca­tion that the po­lice ar­rived on the scene dur­ing the loot­ing.

So far, not one ar­rest has been re­ported. Fur­ther, there are no re­ports about any busi­nesses or homes be­ing raided to re­cover the looted items. At the very least, per­sons should have been charged for steal­ing, and there are good chances that a vig­i­lant po­lice force would have been able to make out a case for re­ceiv­ing stolen items. We sin­cerely hope the po­lice are in­ves­ti­gat­ing this in­ci­dent and the re­sults will be made pub­lic soon.

Some may ar­gue that the sheer num­bers of loot­ers may have over­whelmed the po­lice per­son­nel on duty at the scene. That would be an easy way to dis­miss a prob­lem. How­ever, even keep­ing the loot­ers at bay would have been com­mend­able, and mak­ing some ar­rests would have been an ex­cel­lent way to send a mes­sage that this crime is not go­ing to be tol­er­ated.

PRE­VEN­TION

In any event, ef­forts could have been made to pre­vent the wide-scale loot­ing that was ob­served. In a coun­try where crimes of op­por­tu­nity are read­ily dis­missed as in­con­se­quen­tial, we urge the po­lice to treat all in­frac­tions as se­ri­ous and en­force the law. By ig­nor­ing some crimes, the en­tire sys­tem of law en­force­ment breaks down.

Loot­ing is by no means a Ja­maican phe­nom­e­non; it is com­monly seen in the af­ter­math of dis­as­ters such as hur­ri­canes or dur­ing street ri­ots. Loot­ing for sur­vival may be viewed a lit­tle dif­fer­ently, es­pe­cially if per­sons are for­ag­ing for food. In most cases, the loot­ing is, how­ever, not mo­ti­vated by hunger, but some­thing else.

For the own­ers of the goods that spilled when the ac­ci­dent oc­curred last week, we can imag­ine the enor­mity of con­ster­na­tion that gripped them as they watched the spec­ta­cle and scale of the loot­ing. There is, sadly, no em­pa­thy for them from the loot­ing dozens as it is likely that they be­lieve this is cov­ered by in­sur­ance. And worse, there is no pro­tec­tion from the law en­forcers.

As for the crew of the mo­tor truck that over­turned, very lit­tle at­ten­tion was paid to them by the loot­ers.

How­ever, the bur­den of re­spon­si­bil­ity rests mostly on the po­lice.

Loot­ing is a crime, and if the po­lice are not go­ing to move against the ram­pant theft of peo­ple’s prop­erty, what hope is there for a re­duc­tion in the lev­els of dis­or­der and may­hem threat­en­ing to de­stroy our way of life?

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