Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Jamaica: Crime Real or Imaginary

Deep down in the subconscious mind of every Jamaican living in a foreign country is the desire to return home, even in the minds of most “Use To Be” Jamaican. I believe that this attraction, this salmon like drive to return to ones homeland is so great that some Jamaicans are forced to find various ways to resist this temptation and to fight the instinctual urge but yaard is calling. 

 The salmon swims upstream in a desperate attempt to return to their place of birth trying along the way not to get eaten by Bears and in the case of Jamaicans, they would like to return home but do not want become a victim of a crime. Crime real or imaginary represents 90 percent of Jamaica’s problems, it is the number one entity that is limiting progress and slowing our social and economic development, it is the reason why our nation building initiative since independence have not been as successful. The world wide perception of Jamaica and Jamaicans is that of crime and drugs and yet even against these odds we continue to hold our heads above water, so just imagine what we could achieve if we were to bring about a solution to the problem of crime.  Economic investment in a stable Jamaica would increase to unimaginable levels. The rippling effects of such investments inflows throughout our society would benefit each and every Jamaican. As per the IMF Jamaica’s GDP would increase 5% if the Government was to find a solution to crime, in my view that is a conservative estimate. 

Most Jamaicans living overseas would gladly return home, it is not the lack of economic opportunities that is preventing their return but instead the perception that they will become a victim of crime. The very idea of spending most of your life, working hard, night and day in another man’s country only to come home to become a victim is scary. Crime limits our freedom to be innovative, crime limits our freedom of self expression, our freedom to not only take advantage of opportunities but to create new opportunities that drives social and economic development and

"crime also limits our freedom to design.  So many houses are spoiled by a plethora of grille. Around the windows, behind the door, INSIDE the house: a corridor, a bedroom... Houses look like bunkers because people don't want outside looking in to case the joint..." (as per -Torsdag)

If a solution was found then even the most anti-Jamaica Jamaicans would be forced to come to terms with the fact that Jamaica is a viable option.

Selling the idea of crime is also big business with the introduction of All-Inclusive resorts, hotel owners have introduce crime as a selling point, saying it is better to stay in an all-inclusive compound because it’s safer, they will pick you up from the airport and deliver you back to the airport thus isolating you completely from those scary Jamaicans, their job is to scare you into their resorts and your money in their pockets.

Real estate developers also sell crime with the introduction of the Florida style Gated Community/Compound, crime is now a major selling point, 24 hour security lock down is now a feature, everything is made available even a quickie mart so you can shop without leaving the confines of the compound as they declare that this is where you need to live because it is not safe out there, just 25, 35 50+ million Jamaican dollars is all it takes.

Retiring Jamaicans living overseas would love to spend their last days in Jamaica, they dream of the day they can return home to sit on their verandahs or relax in the back yard, to feel the cool tropical evening breeze and watch the sun set over the Caribbean sea, to live out the rest of their days in peace and harmony but they are afraid to make that move and the number one reason is crime, they do not want to be set upon by criminal elements of our society. Most of our retiring Jamaicans in faraway lands are now looking to other countries with low crime rates and decent standard of living to retire, this not only represents income lost as their retirement income would be forwarded to other countries but also represents the lost of solid experience, their wisdom and maturity is required by our society, they have a part to play in the Nation Building process and we should do everything in our powers to keep them safe.

In 2006 The Bank of Jamaica estimates that 15 per cent of remittances are pensions for returning residents                

Localisation of Crime in Jamaica
The number one concern for returning and visiting Jamaicans is the issue of crime and rightly so, no one wants to return to a place where guns are barking every night like “mawga” dog on the street and bullets passing your ears more times than buzzing mosquitoes. But if we take the time to study the pattern of crime across the island one would realize that the majority of murders and criminal activities are localized to handful of parishes and very localized within those parishes to a hand full of ghetto locations. If one could look at a murder map of Jamaica, one would realize that the vast majority of Jamaica and Jamaicans are safe and living in peace, the people in these places rarely hear a gunshot or experience any crime what so ever. We have three Counties and 14 Parishes in Jamaica with a population of over 2.8 million people and most of those people and location go about their business in peace and enjoy life as much as anyone else in the world.

I am by no means saying that Jamaica does not have a crime problem, it is a fact that our murder rate has been over 1000 for the past couple year but 98% of those murders occur in handful of Ghetto communities with in a hand full of parishes and everyone can list these troubled no-go communities. We know which ghettos in Kingston, St. James and Spanish Town and we know to stay clear of them and they seem to stay clear of everyone else.  A 2006 Gleaner-commissioned poll by pollster Bill Johnson showed that most Jamaicans feel safe living in their country. Johnson interviewed 1,008 persons for the survey which was conducted March 5 and 6 in 84 communities across the island's 14 parishes. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus three per cent. An overwhelming 83 per cent said they felt safe living in their communities, while 14 per cent said they did not and three per cent said they did not know.  Even though 83% felt safe the majority understands that crime was a major problem. A study carried out by Women's Media Watch shows that Jamaica, in comparison to other newspapers worldwide, reported less on the economy and more coverage were given to crime and violence.  Sometimes I get the feeling that Jamaicans are addicted to bad negative news report. Recently “On the Grounds News Report” reported on some good news from Jamaica and the majority of people responding on its messaging board declared that the item was not news and was a waste of time.

If one returning resident becomes a victim to crime then this is translated by the Diaspora to say all returning residents are targets. Crime against tourist is very low but if a crime is committed against one tourist for the entire year, then the  overseas press will make it look like tourist are being attacked, left, right and center and before you know it, a travel warning is place against the entire country. Recently two British tourist was shot and killed in Florida simply because they were in a certain area at a certain time, every country have these no go high crime areas and Jamaica is no exception. There are parts of London I would never go to, parts of New York you would never catch me dead in and there are parts of Jamaica that I would never ever set foot in but in the case of Jamaica the outside world sees all of Jamaica as a no go area and part of the reason for that is how we portray our country in the media.

One of the problem or recent development is that these days we are now so very connected, a fender bender car crash can happen on Hope Road at 3:00PM and at 3:02PM news of the crash is instantly broadcast to Jamaicans worldwide, Jamaicans living in Germany are aware of the accident as Global satellite systems disseminate information at the speed of light to internet servers and smart high tech hand held devices worldwide. Back in the days if three murders happened today we may hear about 2 in printed or electronic media the next day or over the next couple days and a fender bender would never even make news that would just be idle chatter by the people who saw it. People outside of Jamaica may never hear of it at all, the Daily Gleaner used to be monthly in the UK and people in NY would have to wait for the Star to publish every couple weeks, so most crime would go by with most Jamaicans at home and abroad not knowing it ever happened.
On The Ground Murder/Death/Kill Bad News Report
Coupled with the fact that news media’s are competing with each other to see who can find and report the most negative news, because bad news sells and is addictive to most Jamaicans. We are now bombarded up to the nanosecond with every criminal activity, every accident, every little thing and at the rate it is coming in, it has started to have on effect on the minds of Jamaicans worldwide, we cannot assimilate that much bad, disgusting information, at that rate, about our little rock, our island in the sun.

Over the past couple days I decided to do my own research on how crime is reported in other countries, take the UK for example, I decided to go through the major online English newspapers then cross check with their Police website and statistic on crime.  I found that the Guardian, the Independent and The Times UK had a special drill down section on crime and that across all media outlets most crimes did not make the front, middle or back page unless that crime was committed in another country or just too gruesome to ignore. The front page was taken up with football, politics, state of the economy and wars in other countries.  Yet the London Metropolitan Police reported that in London the Number of crimes for the last 12 months to March 11th 2011 was 822,596 and 3,460 gun related crimes with 165,891 as violence against another person.  Only the guardian went on to explain that the crime figures coming out of the UK cannot be trusted because whichever party  forms the government tries to manipulate the figures to show that they are winning the war on crime and keeping Britain safe. It is also clear that the British media have better things to report than to bombard the general public with crime details, they also understand the economic importance of not saturating the air wave with crime. 

Our number one export in Jamaica is our young people, from birth each Jamaican parent begins the process of planning and plotting the time and place of their child’s export. In some cases this is done because they want the best for their child and thinks that only through export will they achieve this. However once exported there is no guarantee that these young Jamaicans will return with the new found experience and knowledge they acquired on their travels and studies and the Government is not trying to get them back either, instead trying to get them to send home the remittance money. It would be nice to see some statistics on what percentage of these exported young people actually return, by my estimate, it is around 3 out of 10, on the other hand I would say 8 out of 10 would start the process of sending money home to their families. According to the World Bank, 80 per cent of Jamaica's graduates of tertiary institutions are abroad.This represents a brain drain on our society, a lost of its human resources, Jamaicans who are needed for innovation and development but by pimping out our offspring’s and various relatives we gain cold hard cash, this situation is so deep rooted that our government now create budgets around remittances and remittances is now a sector, much like construction, tourism and Bauxite/Alumina. I say this because I believe to a certain extent that Jamaicans in Jamaica sells suffering, hard life and crime in exchange for cold hard cash, it is now a gimmick used even by the Government and the people to encourage people and entities to make certain funds available.  I cannot imagine a person calling their relatives abroad to say that life is great, everything is perfect and they have a party to go to tonight and a dance the next night and by the way can you send me some money, I cannot imagine that strategy would work.

 Here is a situation that always amazes me, I am having a conversation with a fellow Jamaican, the topic of crime comes up and he begins to tell me how dangerous and disgusting everything is, a long list of crimes from around the island is detailed, in areas he has never been to and in the same breath he begins to tell me that the wine tasting at Bin 26 was fantastic, the fashion show was great, Jazz night at the club was perfect, the Quad, Cuddy's and countless others was kicking it and tonight he has a session or two to go to but first he must stop at Truck Stop Bar and Grill for a bite to eat, it seems we talk about crime like how the English talk about the weather. For a country that is supposed to be under siege from crime we do not have much of a problem when it comes to enjoying ourselves, nothing will stand in our way when it comes to merriment, well except rain, to a Jamaican there is no difference between rain and fire and brimstone falling from the sky, they are treated the same (Run!).

In the early 1990s I went to visit a friend who lived up Jacks Hill, I remember sitting by his pool as one of two house hold helper served us a couple of beers, during the conversation I mentioned that I would love to return home at which point he went into a long speech trying to convinced me that Jamaica is no place to return to. Now here I am sitting in the sun, cool tropical breeze next to his pool looking out at the skyline of Kingston being served by his house maid while he tells me how hard life in Jamaica is and that he himself is considering migrating, I think he tried that once and then decided that no where no better than yard as he returned to home sweet home, with the pool and helpers.

The main reasons why our young people do not return to Jamaica is (1) the fear of being a victim of crime real or imaginary and (2) the feeling that there are no opportunities available to them in Jamaica, no way to make a living, failing to realize that this country needs them to create opportunities. A third (3) reason is that people in Jamaica tell them not to, it is not in the best interest of some people in Jamaica for them to return, else no remittance, for short term financial gain we are willing to sacrifice the future of Jamaica. Without innovative minds there will be no positive change within our society and stagnation sets in.  These people will give you 101 reasons not to come home, except the main reason, “when you come home whom do I call and ask for money”. (4) The things some people do overseas to make a living they would never do it in Jamaica, working 2 or 3 jobs to make ends meet is a foreign concept, most believes that upon returning to Jamaica they should automatically "run things" regardless of education level and/or work experience. (5) Competition with local Jamaicans for scares jobs, in the early 90’s before the financial meltdown it was reported that educated Jamaicans were returning at an alarming rate, so much so that Jamaicans at home began to complain that the returning Jamaicans was taking away their Jobs, they could not compete as Companies preferred to hire returning resident instead of the locals. The perception at the time was that returning residence had a better attitude towards work, a much better work ethics than their local counterpart that coupled with the fact that they had first world experience also the real estate market is priced for buyers in the United States and Great Britain, the good thing about this is that by buying a stake in Jamaica, overseas residence are forced to take an active role in the direction of the country, if only to preserve the value of their investments.

The other day I was reading about Pheasant Shooting and I realized that during the off season the estates put out free food and water for the birds, as such they become accustomed to certain areas of the estate, the thing is, during shooting season this was also the area for the guns to shoot the fatted fowls, the price they paid for free handout.

It is my view that remittance and international loans hurts us, people have become accustom to being fed and taken care of and as such their minds now turned to putty, why bother with innovation and creativity when all you have to do for a few shorts minutes is sell poverty, death and destruction to anyone willing to listen.  There are people in Jamaica who does absolutely nothing except wait for that call on one of their 3 cell phones, from Western Union and why not … they are getting paid, crime might be a problem in Jamaica but embellishing crime and hard life is also big business.

2006 Report on Remittance:
Category                US$ Million
Remittances          1204
Bauxite/Alumina      770
Tourism                   389
Sugar                     60.2
Rum                       34.5  

America Does it, Trinidad Does it, Britain Does it, most countries worried about investment and perception does this... But Jamaica Flaunt it's Dirty Laundry... We use it as a begging gimmick.. Look how we a suffer beg you a money. 

"PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (AP) — Former world soccer vice-president Jack Warner wants to stop the release of crime reports and statistics in his capacity as Trinidad's national security minister, saying that publicising such information encourages people to commit more crime."
Read more: Trinidad's national security minister wants to stop the release of crime reports and statistics

NYPD leaves offenses unrecorded to keep crime rates down
Read More: Police Tactic: Keeping Crime Reports Off the Books

NYPD Crime Stats Manipulation Widespread, Must Be Investigated, Criminologists Say
NYPD Cooking the Crime Report Book

Metropolitan Police amongst 18 forces to have 'under-reported violent crime for 10 years' The UK's largest police force and 17 other constabularies have been under-reporting the amount of serious violent crime.

1 comment:

  1. I am a Jamaican myself and thinking about living in Jamaica for six months out of the year. I am 43 years old but left Jamaica as a preteen girl. Yes Jamaicadoes have high crime rates, they rob and kill for the simplest things, even their own families. I still love JA, they need to create jobs for the ambitious ones and have community outreach programs for those young childrens. I've come to realize that some of them no matter what trade they have and skills they have, they still go out and kill for that quick cash. Their values and their belief in God is totally erased. We have most good people there but the rebbels make the whole country rusty. The reality is that, we know it's not all the people that are bad, but any negative news to the ears is scary when you don't live at that place, it sometimes sounds worse than it really is. We need to go back to the bible and "Love thy neighbors as oneself" nieghbours in jamaica and neighbors in USA lol! Stay blessed everyone.