While one can identify with the sense of frustration oozing from the pen of Peeping Tom on 6th January 2018, we need to remind ourselves that frustration and the anger it tends to give rise to, solve nothing. Indeed, anger tends to warp thinking. I think the offering of the Peeper on the day indicated above bears out this assessment.
The Peeper’s proposition that SARA should be disbanded because, in his/her opinion, it will cost more to maintain than the worth of what it will recover, is not a worthy argument.
Demonstrating to those in powerful positions and having easy access to the peoples’ money, that when they misappropriate such moneys they will be hunted down relentlessly, is essential as a deterrent. Besides, is it not reasonable to believe that in the absence of SARA there is no way one can quantify the billions those with power steal from us? Justification for SARA’s existence cannot be based merely by attention to cost of its maintenance.
Secondly, Peeping Tom seems to be suggesting the answer to the crime problem is more police ranks, and supposedly better training. If so, then, he/she must explain how come the city of Baltimore, which is rated eighth among cities in the USA with the most favorable police to population ratio, is also listed as one of the most crime-infested cities in the USA?
Also, if training is the answer, why is crime in Jamaica so high? The distinguished Jamaican criminologist – Professor Headley once observed that Jamaica, with the assistance of the USA, has “one of the best trained, most well-equipped police-military apparatuses in the entire English-speaking Caribbean.”
It seems to me that since no one is satisfied with the returns from spending hundreds of millions of dollars on the police by both the PPP and the coalition government, our concept of crime-fighting must be expanded outside the capabilities of the justice system. The focus of our crime fight must be crime prevention and not crime control. This will mean there is need to mount a sustained campaign in which citizens, government, the private sector and trade unions understand the parts they each need to play, and are willing to play these parts.
Citizens need to be exposed to a sustained education program which employs the popular media for its delivery – newspaper, and television. Content of such a program would include, but is not limited to, encouraging citizens to use the club steering locks on their cars, fitting doors on homes with deadbolts, and advice from architects and builders on building safer houses.
By means of this sustained education effort, citizens could be made aware of the need to keep communities free of overgrown bush, and the need to walk in groups at evenings as much as possible. Further citizens can also be encouraged to be alert for strange faces in their neighbourhood, and create community watch groups. Finally, citizens must demand that their community be adequately lighted etc.
The private sector has a lot it can do in the fight against crime. The banks must provide a certain level of security for their customers. Everyone I speak with in Guyana tells me that very often persons are being robbed on leaving the bank with large sums of money. So, what is it about doing business at banks that makes people so vulnerable? It is the openness of the transactions that is the problem. In the banks, all transactions are done at open counters where anyone in the bank can see the sums of money exchanging hands between tellers and customers. Thieves only must be in the banks to identify those collecting the most attractive sums. Open counters are a no, no.
Years ago, I used to purchase foreign currency at a Cambio operated on the bottom floor of Fogarty’s store. The Cambio provided a small sitting area for those waiting to do business, while there were booths that customers had to use to access service. No one in the waiting area could view the transaction being undertaken, and therefore a would-be thief was at a loss to determine which customer would be worth the while attacking. Why can’t the banks create a similar system for doing business?
The government has a key role in the effort that I am suggesting. It must do all it can to encourage the use of cheques and hasten the movement to the use of plastic for conducting business in Guyana. It’s ridiculous that individuals must walk with hundreds of thousands and millions of dollars to conduct business. Recently on a visit home I wanted to do business with a certain agency. I spoke to the bank about giving me a cheque. I was advised that the agency I wanted the cheque written in favour of would not accept cheques. What lunacy! Government will have to work with the private sector on this matter.
Fighting crime demands we see efforts in some not so obvious areas as helpful to the fight. Trade unions must stop giving the impression that they consider fighting for increase in salaries and allowances as their almost sole contribution to workers’ wellbeing. They must fight for the decentralization of the workplace as much as possible.
Until the private sector and government focus on decentralization, creating conditions whereby fewer workers have to travel long distances with their hard-earned money to get home, citizens will continue to be relieved of their hard-earned wages. We will continue to hear with regularity of teachers, nurses and office workers being robbed of their salaries en route to their homes. When we see rural development as part of our crime prevention strategy, perhaps we will approach decentralization with a sense of urgency.
Editor, in closing, I feel compelled to make the following observation. Outside of efforts by the government, there seem to be an over-concentration on, and concern for street crimes in Guyana. Couple this with the behavior and suggestions coming from individual members and bodies representing the business community as their contribution to crime-fighting. On every occasion their suggestions target street crime and criminals. It is as if white collar crimes do not matter or are less destructive to Guyana.
Possibly, the reason for this exclusive concern for street crimes is the fact that it is so visible, and its effects can be brutal to persons, thus it immediately stirs our humanity and our sense of vulnerability.
But, be this as it may, this bias is dangerous. First, most criminals have a need to justify their act. The Chronicle of 30th December 2017 under caption “’Unruly boss’ chooses jail over fine.” Tells us of an offender who showed no remorse in court for stealing his boss’s vehicle, reasoning he was right to do so since the boss owed him money. I did mention in an earlier letter that on suggesting to a person I knew, that he should stop dealing in drugs, he responded “why you ent going and tell the big ones that?” Both model citizens and criminals share the need to feel their actions are justified. Ignoring white collar crimes gives credence to street criminals’ argument that they are unfairly targeted and therefore right to hit back.
When we ignore white collar crime, it makes it hard for people like social workers to convince young people to stay away from crime. Also, let us remember that no crime affects the nation more negatively than while collar crime – crime of the rich and those in high positions.
When government cannot assist children with school books; when parents visit the public hospitals, and cannot be helped with needed medication, if this inability to provide by government is tied to crime, then certainly street criminals are not to blame. Further, as a prominent clinical psychologist once observed “most poor people are not criminals, and many wealthy people are.”
Crime prevention demands a response that is all encompassing, demanding contribution from the justice system, citizens, the government, private sector, trade unions etc. And yes, it also demands a response that targets both street and white-collar criminals.
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