There are many reasons why persons engage in crime despite the obvious risks involved. But the main incentive is that the perpetrators feel that they will get away with their criminal conduct.
So long as criminals feel that there is a great chance of their misconduct being undetected or unpunished, they will be encouraged to commit crimes. Once there is a high risk of criminals being caught, and once they cannot escape sanction for flouting the laws, crime is going to be reduced significantly.
There is, however, another important reason why criminal activities have increased. This reason is often not appreciated by policymakers and the public alike. That reason is the reduced sense of shame that comes with committing a criminal act.
In the past, a criminal was scorned in society. He was seen and treated as an outcast. His criminal conduct brought shame and disgrace onto his family. He was seen as a nonentity. It did not matter whether the crime was white collar or blue collar.
The negative stigma and dishonour associated with criminal conduct no longer exists. In fact, during the crime wave of 2001-2007, citizens openly celebrated the death of policemen. Some of our womenfolk developed a special attachment to hardened criminals to the point that even though they knew that these were wanted men, they fathered their children. Young girls idolized those criminals. They were not be bothered by the embarrassment that they would bring to their families by indulging with these criminals.
Criminals found protection within certain communities. Disgusting incidents took the place of women exposing themselves and children to great risk by placing themselves between police and fleeing gunmen.
Criminal conduct was defended by linking it to poverty. Yet, there are living examples of individuals in this country, including most of our prominent leaders, who were never born with gold spoons in their mouths, yet rose to positions of prominence, respectability and fortune without having to break the law.
If crime is to be reduced in Guyana, there must be a change in our attitude towards criminals. Criminals must be given a chance to redeem themselves. Yes, they must not be looked down on at all times, but they must also not be supported and made to appear like angels or victims.
A very sad event occurred eight years ago. A small-time entertainment promoter was hauled before the courts on charges of tax evasion. He was placed on a very small amount of bail. But he was so poor that the money could not be raised to facilitate a prompt release.
While he was waiting for the money to be raised or for the bail to be reduced, he decided to make a run for it and ended up jumping into the Mahaicony River. His body was recovered two days later.
Why did this promoter make that decision to escape for such a trivial matter and also when he was awaiting the posting of bail? The man did what he did because he was from the ‘old school’ where self-respect and honour were important values. The man could not bear the embarrassment, humiliation and indignity associated with having to face the courts and being unable to post bail immediately.
He could not endure the shame of the prospect of spending a night in jail and so he decided that it would be best for him to escape the dishonour that he felt he had brought onto himself and his family.
There are still persons in Guyana who are embarrassed by the thought of having to go to jail or to face the courts. This man should not have had to run, but he ran because he could not face what happened to him.
There are many others within our society who would not have run. In fact, some of them are not the least bothered at being hauled before the courts. But this small man who was so humiliated at having to face the courts and then to find that his small bail might not be posted in time, decided to escape, because he valued something that money cannot buy – he valued his self-respect.
We would have less crime in Guyana if persons valued their self-respect. There would be less crime because those who committed crimes would be ashamed of dishonouring their family by a criminal conviction.
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