In the discussions to do with rising crime levels dominating the headlines, there is an immovable fact. Societies are not stagnant and neither are they continually constant; people change or perhaps they adapt to their changing circumstances.
We never quite know what drives individuals towards crime and violent behaviour. Those more versed in human behavioural studies have had a crack at deciphering why we, as humans, do the things we do - especially those things which the laws that we live by tells us we ought not to do. Can we definitively say that any of the reasons given by any of the practitioners of behavioural science are 100% accurate and conclusive? Unfortunately, it is not one of those instances where we can have an absolute right or an absolutely wrong answer.
I recall as a teenager, along with fellow students, partaking in a Leeward Islands Debating Competition topic where we examined whether the social ills of the Caribbean were being caused by nature or by nurture. The evidence to support the arguments on either side of this debate were heavily reliant on statistical and other forms of authoritative evidence and boundless emotional positioning, but needless to say, the question was not answered at the conclusion of that debate. The challenge and the task of addressing the social ills of the region is one we are still battling over all these years later.
Crime in the Caribbean has taken on new realms in recent years. The known culprit islands who usually report high crime numbers did not offer anything new by way of major shifts in their crime reporting towards a downward trend. In fact the opposite occurred. Places like The Bahamas saw crime getting out of control. Social commentators, politicians, church leaders and journalists all expressed the outrage that was echoing across the region.
But for a moment, let us pause on emotion and examine what caused this crime increase. Were these criminal elements ones that already existed, but stepped up their criminal activity? Or perhaps, can it be considered that these crimes we keep hearing about are from new factions bent on making their lot known via crazed news headlines? Or maybe the society at large is lashing out at the depressed state of the local economies in which they live? Which of these do we feel is more probable?
Criminal activity is an unfortunate aspect of the societies we live in today. But crime is nothing new and the fight against it has been ongoing for centuries hence the continued investment in resources to combat and reduce the risks posed to law abiding citizens. The effectiveness of a police force cannot be overstated when looking at combating crime and making a fearful population less nervous about their safety.
The police cannot stop all crime but they must be seen visibly to have a zero tolerance towards it. For the workings of law enforcement to be effective in this fight against crime, then citizens must feel an unwavering trust in the abilities of that police service. If there is no trust in the police or confidence in their ability to solve crimes, then citizens will believe that the police themselves are a part of the problem and not aiding the solution. Some may think this a discomforting statement to make, but even though discomforting, it could quite possibly be real and impactful.
The legislative and judicial processes within a country when fighting back against crime should also be seen to work; and not work for a few and certain chosen elements of our society only. If there are laws in place to punish and repel criminal activity, then they must be enforced via the legislative and judicial processes. The police should not seen to be used as political pawns where politicians tell the police to get tough on crime, yet when there is a case that comes to the fore involving a friend or party supporter a politician intervenes in the judicial process to halt justice being delivered. That in itself is a crime and should also be subjected to the full force of the law. The laws are in place for the protection of all citizens and not to be selectively enforced due to favour and personalities. Undermining the police service serves to the benefit of only a few, and justice therefore cannot be said to be universal.
Politicians themselves in times of increased criminal activity must be seen to have a stamp on the situation. I recently wrote an article pertaining to innovative and transformational leadership and I maintain that I like to see leaders who lead. I have great admiration for such a type of leader. Should a leader stay silent, when various elements of the society, to include also the clergy, are expressing alarm at rising crime levels? Should a society unnerved by rising crime levels have to wonder where do their leaders stand on the criminal elements now more prevalent within the country? In times of great national challenge, I want to hear my leader speak and give reassurance that he is making all moves to calm unsettled nerves.
Working in tandem - the church, police, and all other elements of society have to come together and fashion an approach towards combating crime. These organisations have individual roles to play; yet their roles are also interconnected.
Many persons chime about going back to the fundamentals of society, or going back to basics. Ideals of respect, being our brothers keeper, youth groups and community programmes, church attendance and participation, leisure programmes and self development programmes for members of the wider community, unity days and the like. These are all worthwhile and can in fact reap results in this fight back against crime. My only caution would be that these cannot be seen to be activities delivered only in response to an emotional pulse, rather these responses and the push back ought to be sustained, supported and continually reinforced.
Crime may not be 100% beatable but I am certain it can be lessened to make less of the headlines we have witnessed in recent times.
Photo Credit To Handgun Forum
Jeevan Robinson is Founder & Editor-in-Chief of MNI Alive. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org