Editorial | Building a highway is not enough
Vandalism is a misdemeanour so it is not viewed in the harsh light of violent crimes such as murder. Indeed, vandalism, regarded as a soft crime, is not likely to be ranked high among concerns for law enforcement officials who have seen gun violence’s persistent growth over time.
However, we feel that ignoring so-called soft crimes is having a profound negative impact on many phases of life in this country. We need not look further than the utility companies to get a sense of how so-called soft crime has been tough on business entities. For example, miles of cable and other accessories are being stolen by criminals creating widespread disruption, affecting the companies’ viability and the quality of service they are able to offer to their customers. Having ravished the utility companies what might their next target be?
The ongoing fiasco on the recently opened highway from May Pen to Williamsfield, where fencing is being stolen and putting motorists at risk of colliding with animals particularly at nights, is an example of the high price we pay for ignoring crimes like vandalism. Lives could be lost and serious damage done to people and property because of these selfish acts.
Unfortunately, it is not only utility companies which are affected by the indiscipline and selfishness which are expressed in these acts of vandalism. Jamaica is paying a high price for indiscipline, social decay and general disorder, which are simultaneously threatening to undermine all efforts to create peace and address the various problems associated with public safety.
The example of the May Pen to Williamsfield highway may be on a small scale, but it demonstrates a widespread disrespect for public and private property. So the conversation has to be how can the country revitalise waning civic pride which is essential to build a sense of belonging and create safer public spaces?
In this highway example, we have to wonder aloud whether the various planners and developers missed the opportunity to engage with the Clarendon/Manchester communities so they could feel a sense of ownership and pride in a spanking highway in their backyards?
Lack of proper planning and failure to engage communities are often to blame for such blatant anti-social behaviour. Preparation ought to have included: an education component to create awareness of the benefits to be derived from the highway, setting up of frequent police patrols and installation of visible security cameras. Smart technology also demands that Jamaica’s street lighting ought to be dominated by solar-powered lamps and other sustainable options, as we stare down the effects of climate change.
Even with such preparation though, it is possible that there could be vandalism. Those who are caught stealing or vandalising cables and other equipment should be swiftly punished in a Court of law and roundly shamed.
Owners of animals that roam the streets and create a hazard for road users should be held accountable. The animals should be impounded and the owners made to pay for their release.
Someone needs to remind our leaders that community engagement is necessary if we are to put a dent in gratuitous vandalism and street crimes. Building a new highway adds capacity to the road network and opens the way to new development prospects but along with it comes a whole new set of responsibility for all key players.