Commentary • Jamaica Magazine

Jamaica’s Crime Dilemma
11 years ago
by DelanoSeiveright
A Worrying Problem
Crime continues to dominate the everyday lives of us islanders. In 2005 alone the murder tally
hovered over 1670. We have yet again broken our own record. Most Jamaicans are now living a life
saddled with unabated fear. Our capital city with the exception of Knutsford Boulevard and a few
other pockets are largely deserted at nights. It is without a doubt that the impact of rampant crime
and violence is being felt across all spheres of our society.
Living on the Edge
Many of us consciously and unconsciously alter our lifestyles in order to enhance that fading
semblance of security. Some for the most part intentionally avoid driving through ‘volatile’
communities, disregard traffic signals at late night, refuse to walk even a quarter mile in the day and
nights, install low cost to expensive security mechanisms and arm ourselves with knives, machetes,
and for the lucky few guns. One seriously wonders how much longer Jamaicans can continue to live
a life consumed with fear. For how long can we tolerate living in the ‘murder capital of the world’?
And can young people in particular seriously consider living copious and blissful lives in a country
where their seems to be a rapidly declining state of law and order.
Heavyhanded Policing
Scholars, politicians, commentators and veranda society have spoken ad nauseam on the causes of
all the spiraling crime and violence. There seems to be an emerging consensus on all sides that
social and economic conditions along with the criminal justice apparatus would have to be
ameliorated before crime and violence can be brought under any real control. Despite this however
much of the debate on how to cauterize the mind-boggling spate of crime and violence plaguing our
nation, centers on the utilization of Jamaican style heavy handed policing and its typical offshoots
of extra judicial killings and the deprivation of human rights. Do you recall by the Minister of
National Security and PNP Presidential contender Dr. Peter Phillips’ call for “severe, extreme,
resolute measures”?
Social Structure Theories
Conservatives must accept the fact that heavy-handed policing will not break the strong back of
Jamaica’s mammoth crime dilemma. There are several criminological theories that emphasise the
relation between social and economic factors and the perpetration of crime. Noted American
criminologist, Larry Siegel, through his work ‘Criminology’ explored extensively Social Structure
theories. Siegel noted “As a group, social structure theories suggest that social and economic forces
operating in deteriorated lower class areas push many of their residents into criminal behaviour
patterns.” These negative social and economic factors include high unemployment,
underemployment, shabby housing, high school drop out rate, single parent households and
teenage/young adult gangs.
The Social Class Divide
Though middle and upper income Jamaicans engage in criminal activities they do so at a much
lesser frequency. How often does one hear of a Norbrook or Cherry Gardens young male resident
being involved in armed robberies and carjackings? And, why is it that our middle and upper
income neighbourhoods rarely experience the torment of marauding gunmen engaged in turf

talk. The other is socially and economically marginalized with the odds stacked up against him. Catherine and Montego Bay. In this case there is a dramatic disparity between both adolescents. Arcadia and Grants Pen are both located in the same geographic area. St. Differing Circumstances Sociologists believe that one’s socialization and social environment shapes behaviour patterns. has over the last couple weeks presented comprehensive and solution rich reports of both the justice system and the police force. yet Grants Pen residents are accustomed to standard violent flare-ups whilst Arcadia residents are largely unscathed by such violence. There is also a desperate need for the reform of our ramshackle justice system. The average 18-year-old male in upper St. As such the latter is most likely to go the route of crime. Housing is even more distressing. The simple fact that large numbers of Kingstonians lack proper sanitary facilities is an absolute embarrassment. Government continues to pussyfoot on addressing the wide-ranging problem in education to the continued detriment of our society. Some positive steps have been made in these areas however they are not significant enough and seem to lack governmental resolve. and is presented with a plethora of options for future satisfaction. can go a very far way in eliminating the problems faced by both critical organs of our nation’s security apparatus. as overtime employment opportunities will increase substantially. lives in comfortable housing. Read more: http://jamaicans. Andrew is much less likely to become a gunman than the average 18-year-old male in South St. The only nuisance related to violence experienced by Arcadia residents is the sound of gunfire coming across from Grants Pen. The last time Jamaica experienced economic growth was in 1990. The real test on the part of the government is to ensure that economic expansion isn’t to the benefit of a few but also to ordinary working class Jamaicans. The same phenomenon exists across many parts of the Corporate area. some of which can be easily implemented as long as there is the resolve. Certainly the trend in economic and social statistics over the last decade and a half indicates that our crime dilemma will continue to worsen. Generation 2000. the young professional affiliate of the Jamaica Labour Party. These recommendations. If our economy continues to perform lethargically talk of reducing crime is just. One is given a quality education. On the social side dramatic improvements must be made in housing and education. Andrew.warfare? It is a fact that the most violent crimes occurs in poor inner-city communities. Sustained and economic growth overtime will bring about a reprieve to many Jamaicans. Economic growth since then continues to be worryingly sluggish. Solutions The solutions to our crime dilemma as mentioned above require the immediate amelioration of far too appalling social and economic conditions for the . The economy between the years 1996 and 1999 actually contracted. has educated and gainfully employed parents. G2K. One cannot of course tackle crime without bringing about considerable improvements to the criminal justice system.