The Home Affairs Ministry’s reported data-driven refutation of A Partnership for National Unity’s (APNU) assertion that the poor are disproportionately affected by serious crime merits some examination. It should be made clear at the outset that no amount of paraded statistics can erase the fear of crime that most persons without the necessary security wherewithal experience on a daily basis. How people are affected by crime should be the focus of serious national consideration and not left to the expression of individual political parties, nor should it be relegated to the field of political grandstanding and brinksmanship.
To point to the worth of stolen items like cell phones and arrive at the conclusion that the owner-victims are not poor is at best a specious piece of reasoning. A not so close look at what obtains with respect to material possessions would enlighten the most obtuse among us that some of the poorest are prepared to engage in what the economist identify as the exercise of choice, even if the opportunity cost means foregoing more basic and important needs. What the reported statement is asking us to believe is that a male victim between 18 and 35 walking late should not concern one unduly since the crimes did not occur in homes but in the street. The issue here should be one of those nightly street victims classified as poor and if so what were the victimology factors which caused that number (94) to suffer at the hands of criminals?
Apart from a tepid blanket statement, APNU should have pointed out to this nation the ways in which crime in all its manifestations affect the poor. Citizens might have been more able to identify if references were made to the fact that the efficient provision of social services is affected by government having to reallocate resources to law enforcement interventions, thus leaving already depressed communities which are predominated by the poor. The Guyanese people would have been better served by an APNU statement which showed how the level of white collar crime deprives them of benefits through tax evasion and money laundering.
One does not have to be a rocket scientist to understand how crime affects a country. However, those who feel that they are getting the short end of the social contract and with no end in sight might be more susceptible to well-reasoned arguments replete with suggestions on how to move from the morass of a crime-ridden existence. In this regard, APNU comes across as lacking a clear strategy of how to capitalize of the much-touted lack of vision by an entrenched administration. Yes almost everyone will agree that crime must be confronted by a bipartisan approach, but it appears as though the allure of scoring cheap political points has stronger sway across the political spectrum than nationalism. The net result is a jaded and pessimistic population which is becoming more mired in misery as the days unfold.
People need to be told when the country’s infrastructure will reach the standard where road engineering will not feature as a contributory factor in traffic accidents; where minibus fatalities do not disproportionately impact on the poor who are forced to use that mode of public transport; where the well to do develop a sense of social justice and urge their comrades to stop stealing electricity which the poor must pay for if they want a degree of comfort. The crime of smuggling gold and precious stones, opaque rapacious dealings involving the national patrimony all take a toll on the quality of national life. In fact there are so many ways that crime impact on the poor that it requires broad unequivocal acceptance and diligent efforts to reign it in.
The psychological trauma of being a crime victim probably cannot be measured in comparative terms between the wealthy and the poor. But obviously the replacement costs for material possessions are likely to be more within the comfortable reach of those above the poverty line than those on or below that said line. Further those with the wherewithal are more than likely to remove themselves from the perils of living in a crime-ridden environment than their less endowed brethren. Therein lies the sad reality of Guyana today.
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