Columns

The crime statistics speak for themselves

Kevin o'Brien Chang

Sunday, April 15, 2018

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In 2016 Jamaica had the world's highest violent death rate for females, and the sixth highest in total (www.smallarmssurvey.org/fileadmin/docs/U-Reports/SAS-Report-GVD2017.pdf). Our paradise island ranked overall below Syria, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Afghanistan, and above Iraq, Libya, Somalia. But we were easily number one for slaughtering women, and remain so.

Our 1,615 murders last year equals 59 per 100,000. The global average is about six. So we kill each other 10 times as often as the rest of the world ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate).

Only an insane nation could consider this normal. Only drunks, lunatics or 'dog-hearts' could argue against the state of emergency that has cut murders by 70 per cent in the areas applied.

Academics say our stratospheric murder rate costs about five per cent annually of the Jamaican gross domestic product (GDP) of roughly US$14 billion. That is .05 x US$14 billion = US$70 million per year.

Each 10 per cent fall in our murder rate, therefore, saves US$7 million or J$9 billion per year = J$750 million per month.

The two weeks of the state of emergency in St Catherine Northern (added to St James) has seen 50 murders islandwide, equating to 1,300 annually, or 20 per cent less than the 1,615 in 2017.

So the 'crime costs five per cent of economy' formula means a 20 per cent murder rate decline saves roughly J$1.5 billion per month.

The state of emergency is thus more than paying for itself. 'We can't afford the state of emergency for long!' is wicked and irresponsible garbage. We can keep it as long as security forces wish, which is what 89 per cent of Jamaicans desire. ( http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/state-of-emergency-in-st-james-gets-overwhelming-support-rjr-gleanerdon-anderson-poll)

Here is an article 'Obama extends post-9/11 state of national emergency for 16th year'. ( https://amp.usatoday.com/amp/90004960. It's still in place today. The US murder rate is one tenth of Jamaica's.)

Any legislator who does not support keeping the state of emergency in place as long as and wherever the security forces request it, places no value on Jamaican lives. Some 99 per cent of murder victims are poor black Jamaicans, mostly poor, young, black men. It is asinine to bring sex, class, or colour into this life or death equation.

Former Commissioner Owen Ellington postulates that two more states of emergency in Kingston and central Clarendon might conceivably produce a 70 per cent decline in murders this year alone, saving hundreds of poor black Jamaican lives. Who could not want this?

There are many factors in Jamaica's horrific violent death rate, including immoral gun distributing and gang protecting politicians, a partially corrupt police force, a fractured family structure, a class apartheid education system, and badly skewed income equality. But there is another major contributor, we simply don't keep enough violent criminals in prison for long enough.

Jamaica puts criminals in prison at 39 per cent of the average rate of our geographic and Caricom neighbours, while our homicide rate is 346 per cent higher. Sixteen countries with higher incarceration and lower murder rates versus one outlier nation with by far the lowest incarceration and highest murder rates. It's obvious which judiciary and legal system is taking the wrong approach.

Those statistics confirm the anecdotal impression that our “leave sentencing to the judges' discretion” approach has failed. ( http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/lead-stories/20180117/guns-no-problem-judges-western-ja-blasted-light-sentences-illegal)

“Dozens of persons who were convicted for illegal possession of guns and ammunition in St James and three other western parishes last year got off easy, as High Court judges opted for suspended sentences and fines as low as $70,000...”

Who doubts our crime rate would plummet if we imprisoned felons at similar rates as Barbados, Cayman or Costa Rica? And we don't hear those places bawling, “We locking up too many people and depriving them of their rights!” Instead, we hear them gloating, “We are so much safer than Jamaica!”

They must laugh at our self-destructive stupidity of releasing convicted criminals to roam free and continue creating havoc. We Jamaicans can only weep.

Here are seven laws that would cut our crime and murder rate dramatically:

1. Mandatory sentences for gun crimes

2. Mandatory sentencing for serious wounding

3. Sentences for gun crimes to run consecutively not concurrently

4. No bail for murder or gun crimes

5. No bail for repeat offenders

6. Automatic 10-year sentence for skipping bail

7. Double the last sentence law for repeat offenders (eg, first offence gets one year; second offence gets two years; third offence gets four years; fourth offence gets eight years; fifth offence gets 16 years; and sixth offence gets 32 years)

This last would address the chronic re-offender problem — no more 27 and 28 offence criminals.

“[Superintendent] Cameron pointed to the prevalence of repeat offenders, some breaking into houses and business places while out on bail… The judge will tell you they are entitled to bail, and so, not before long after you arrest them, they are going to be given bail and be back on the road… Since the start of this year we arrested 37 breakers, 23 of them were given bail…We put away…two men in September, one Marvin Lynch for 28 break-ins, one Garnett Dixon, an ex-policeman for 27 break-ins.”

( http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/observer-central-front-page/crime-challenge-in-manchester_120198?profile=1431)

Our refusal to lock away hardened criminals, as our regional neighbours do, is clearly penny wise and pound foolish. But putting and keeping more violent criminals in prison will require more than stiffer sentences and bail reform. It will mean more resources for police and courts to detect, catch, convict, and house wrongdoers.

The huge economic benefits of lower crime make investing in improved policing, efficient courts and more prison space no-brainers. They would also increase State legitimacy, since its most critical role is the preservation of life, law and order. To quote our prime minister, “From Babylon to Zion.”

If some measures require constitutional change, so what? Laws are made to serve the people, not the people to serve laws. How good can a constitution be anyway that has seen the murder rate go from four per 100,00 in 1962 to 59 per 100,000 in 2017 — an incredible increase of 1,500 per cent?

What suited Sir Alexander Bustamante's and Norman Manley's times is patently not working in these 'Run Jamaica from jail' days. Let's confront our sacred cows and bring up to date what needs to be.

Hypocritical human rights alarmists and criminal protecting lawyers, who unfailingly oppose every move to have less Jamaicans gunned down, will predictably cry “What about the unintended consequences!”

The obvious retort is, “So the highest violent death rate in the world for women and the sixth highest overall is an acceptable status quo?” The greatest human right is the right to stay alive.

Mr Prime Minister, ignore the heartless and irresponsible grandstanders who want to coddle vicious gunmen who have slaughtered 15,000 Jamaicans in the last 10 years. Listen to the Jamaican masses who want a decent country for their children. Do the job we elected you for and implement every legal measure possible to keep us safe. We want to sleep with our windows open.

Kob.chang@fontanapharmacy.com

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