Monday, December 12, 2005

Crime Down Murder Up! Really?

There are times when statistics do not tell the whole story, there are times when statistics are used to tell a story and yes there are times when statistics are meaningless. Every now and then you see in our Jamaican daily papers or hear on the radio some politician or public officer saying that crime is down in Jamaica. When pressed for details they point out that murder is up but other crimes (robbery, rape, fraud,etc) are down.

Fear & Under Reporting
One thing we have to bear in mind is that the statistics can only talk to what has been officially reported and that the where the problem lies. It is my view that many crimes are just not reported.

How many, threatened by thugs, just pack up and move out of a community? How many persons are victims of extortion who just simply pay the imposed taxes rather than report the matter to the police, seen to many as just uniformed criminals? How many are victims of sex abuse who refuse to report the matter because of the real or imagined tactlessness of the police or the judges. How many people are bothering to report crimes? The truth is many simply don't bother to report the crime for fear of their lives.

Have you ever been to a police station to report a motor vehicle accident? You will notice the callous and insensitive greeting one receives. Indeed when you have a pleasant experience it is something to talk about. So many police stations are in need of proper maintenance. Be careful how you ask for a glass of water at a police station as you might just become the victim of a police beating or as the police chief puts it an accident blown out of proportion. As a result many fear the police and even the police station itself.

How many motorists have bothered to report a hub cab stolen or an emblem removed from their vehicle? How many have their pockets picked, neck relieved of a shiny necklace or fingers stripped of the marriage token bother to report this to the police. People just seem to say "Well no life lost", "giving thanks”,” material things", "it can be replaced" and move on.

Ignored Crimes
I often drive on Heroes Circle in Kingston Jamaica and there are lanes that run beside or in the vicinity of the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Labour and Social Security. These lanes are filled with illegal electricity connections clear for all to see. Sometimes it is hard to look at because the blatant disregard for the law is blinding if not shocking.

Maybe the police are too busy looking into murders or are it that investigating and prosecuting these matters might ruin the statistics. Is littering still a crime in Jamaica? You only have look at the streets at the end of the workday much less at nights after a dancehall session.

Ganja possession and smoking still remains a crime. You would hardly believe this as on many street corners, the circular motion of one hand in the other can be seen as idle youth prepare vegetable matter to destroy other body parts. How many are still buying their driver's license?

A big part of the problem here is that the police simple do not have the resources, opportunities for gainful employment is noticeably absent and people are just downright bad.

Absence of Stats from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF)
Early this year the JCF's Constabulary Communications Network(CCN) stopped providing the weekly statistics (claiming stress problems with one of their number) and that the media should keep their own statistics. That was a clear recipe for confusion. The absence of official statistics is a shameless dereliction of duty.

Burying our heads in the sand
Are we burying our heads in the sand? The former Iraqi Information Minister Mohamed Saeed al-Sahaf, AKA "Baghdad Bob," was heard telling the Iraqi people that they were defeating the enemy and that all was well. All this while the USA and its allies were taking control of the capital of Iraq and eventually driving Saddam Hussein from power. Hopefully this is not the case with crime in Jamaica but in my movement around Jamaica and from those I interact with I hear completely different story.

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