Housing, a national ID, and crime are intertwined


Friday, October 12, 2018

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The nexus between national security, housing and a national identification system is our survival. Crime thrives as family values do not develop in a vacuum and we must know our people. We emerged from rural life in which everyone knew everyone, but modern life relies on data and biometrics as we all can dress to impress, so “seeing is believing” no longer holds.

A house — own or rent — address updating in law and a national ID brings order. Order brings peace — a prerequisite to prosperity. Police can't catch criminals consistently without these tools. National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang says police need transformation, and we agree, but that's half the story. However, he must insist that Cabinet do their half and provide this kit so police can perform.

After the London Bridge terrorist incident UK police rounded up suspects 100 miles away; not because they are better than ours, but put a name, picture, body fluid, fingerprint (any one) in their system and it spits out a life story. If police were transformed today they could do little in the absence of this kit.

Parliament is not blameless. Sirs, do not make the perfect the enemy of the good. Approve these tools and our level of detective work may now improve by 100 per cent. I began this media conversation with Andrew Holness weeks ago as growth, production, export go badly for him, and crime is in remission, but not cured. Sir, the dollar or inflation are effects, not causes, so produce, export and we grow! He did not answer, but he hears.

A national ID allows Cabinet to target, cost, assess, and direct sanctions or benefits precisely. Once the State has tabs on people; crime, production, education, health, justice — which we control here — can do well. Housing for all — own or rent — is basic to security and growth.

Communist states own everything, and all live in a house and have a number; they can find you. In rich democracies, own or rent is 50/50, citizens get an ID, know their credit score; and update addresses or go to jail — so they, too, know where you are. In Cuba or North Korea the state is your landlord; you own nothing. In democratic Jamaica a minority own houses, so Cabinet should focus on tenants and squatters who need most help and have most votes — win win?

For decades leaders played politics with housing by self-serving social engineering and hurt us all. Is there collusion with cartels that finance, sell houses; vilify landlords, denigrate rent-house for politics? One unintended consequence was that it undermined family and fed the crime monster. When demand exceeds supply we have high rents and the Rent Restriction Act, once a cure, is now a problem as it cramps investors and a conference on foreign short-term housing rental ( Jamaica Observer, October 8) may be short-sighted or self-serving. Housing is a closed loop, so each part affects every part. Foreign demand is a loophole, so expatriate corporate rentals (long or short) hike local rents and 75 per cent of us rent or squat — what? If we regulated banks in a “Banking Fees and Interest Restriction Act” would they thrive? We regulate media, so Cabinet can regulate housing to elicit supply, moderate rentals, and pen the dirge to crime. Election 2020 will be won on rental housing as most voters don't own a house and never will. Selah!

Every year some 36,000 young people come of age. We need 15,000 studios, bedsits for young workers, students to rent. In London, the average is 19 years for a young couple to save a deposit (Resolution Foundation UK, 2018 report); how long here? Might a high tax on foreign sales and rentals help fund youth housing? To buy or rent are stages as all must rent while they save a deposit. Where do they live now? Rent house! Politicians made “rent house” a derogatory term. Let's rescue it.

The National Housing Trust is a members' only club for approximately one-fifth of our people, but half the members don't qualify for a benefit. Where do these live? Rent house! The majority of workers (900,000) are not contributors to the National Housing Trust. Where do they live? Rent house! Decent rent house is the cornerstone of good families and pre-empts crime by passing on good values. Rent-house folk and squatters must vote for Members of Parliament who have plans to build more rent house.

This is no treatise of despair, but an alert after 1,000 days in office to put Andrew Holness on a winning path. Sir, embrace rental housing, get pension funds involved, and back stop them as we do foreign investors in highways, sort out the problem with our national identification system, and make address filing mandatory.

For now, John Brown, aka Screechy of McGregor Gully, Lot 2,576, will do as 700,000 in squats incubate the criminal underclass of mid-century. Housing and a national ID must grow in sync to curb crime. A fingerprint linked to an ID; ID to a face; face to a body; a body (dead or alive) to an address — Detective work 101!

Cabinet must deliver this tool kit to the police ASAP! Privacy is important, but I give up mine, so if one child is butchered police know where to start looking. We must all give a little so all may survive. Stay conscious!

Franklin Johnston, D Phil (Oxon), is a strategist and project manager; Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (UK); and lectures in logistics and supply chain management at Mona School of Business and Management, The University of the West Indies. Send comments to the Observer or

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