Wed | Aug 12, 2020

Shandono Burton | Social intervention – an alternative crime plan

Published:Sunday | July 5, 2020 | 12:08 AMShandono Burton - Guest Columnist

A famous adage states that we cannot defeat death, but we can defeat death in life. For far too long, too many Jamaicans have been robbed of the ability to adequately enjoy a meaningful life. Simply traversing the streets of downtown Kingston, Half-Way Tree, or Cross Roads can be risky business as one could easily fall prey to the parasitic habits of pickpockets who roam the streets looking for the next easy grab.

We have arrived at a point where crime and violence have held us all hostage. As a young Jamaican, I am left to wonder if things were always the way they are now or if we just sat down and deliberately allowed the deterioration to take place.

A great deal has been said about the use of social interventions as a means of alleviating crime, but not much has translated into formative policies over the years that can produce any meaningful impact. An area of focus must be the way we police. Our current policing model does not facilitate or place great focus on a proactive approach to the crime situation. We place more emphasis on reactive policing rather than on crime prevention.

I am suggesting that we need to police differently, and a good place to start is in the schools, I am convinced that the signs, symptoms, and criminal characteristics of most gangsters and the criminally prone begin to develop at the secondary levels of our education system. As such, we need to place greater resources into the provision of a competent and capable network of social workers and guidance counsellors within our secondary schools who would be able to identify and address the underlying issues that these youngsters face.

BEYOND THE OBVIOUS

We need these professionals in the classrooms to go beyond the obvious – to see what our teachers may not be able to see. The surface traits in an individual’s personality, which are the obvious and easily identifiable attributes, are, generally, not the deciding factors that instruct that individual’s actions. The source traits are usually the reasons a certain behavioural pattern is portrayed. With the right social-intervention programmes applied by professionals, some of these issues can be identified and resolved. Some of the issues are not as complex as one would think. The absence of love, attention, or basic resources can be tough on the minds and souls of children.

Another avenue that can be explored to foster crime prevention is the way in which the police force operates. For the sustenance and prevalence of law and order within the society, there needs to be a partnership between the security forces and the wider community. Residents need to feel as if they are relevant stakeholders in the crime-fighting process. This can be achieved by making greater investments in the build-out of technological infrastructure that allows and enables security forces to gather intelligence in an efficient manner. Technologies that can be implemented include the use of drone technology and CCTV cameras. These would allow for the security forces to be better able to obtain intelligence without the use of excessive forces, which puts a greater strain on the already tarnished image of the force as is.

The solution to the crime situation must be a broad-based campaign that encompasses the changing of social habits. The approach should be focused on providing empowerment for the marginally affected within the society. It is no coincidence that the level of criminal and gang warfare in upper St Andrew is far lower in comparison to that of the inner cities in Kingston. As such, an empowerment programme ought to be at the centre of the strategy. Retooling and equipping these youngsters with adequate skill sets, technological savvy, and resources would be a major step in the effort for them to become functional members of society rather than palm-pressing street hoodlums. It is said that the devil finds work for idle hands. As such, I believe our long-term crime-fighting strategy should be focused on broadening the opportunity base for the youth within these communities.

A new Jamaica will take collaborative effort with effective policing and practical social-intervention strategies to create a nation that will work for all and not just a few.

Shandono Burton is a student at The Mico University College and youth parliamentarian of St Thomas Eastern 2019-2020.