Looking back at the past is one of the best metrics of measurement for how far we have come, what we have accomplished, what we can tweak or change, or whether we may even want to go back to some of the old strategies where the results may have been better than what we have at present.
Or we could change to say we are agents of change, even when the change we seek has resulted in exponentially more negative consequences when compared to the past.
With that said, I believe in changing tactics; standing still is stagnation; it may even be characterized as dormancy, particularly when we are dealing with continuing evolving situations like violent crimes.
Whereas we have a historical record of lower crimes, all things considered, it is foolish to disregard the data of that period simply because we want to make a point that we know better today, we want to set a different standard, even to the detriment of hundreds of people’s lives each year.
As a former law enforcement officer, I have all but given up on the Jamaican crime situation, because it seems to me that those in power would rather showcase structural changes that they have instituted, rather than deal with the real-life consequence of the loss of human life.
And so it seems that the Government’s insistence on what it terms ‘the modernization of the Constabulary,’ (executed by a soldier no less), is far more important than any cumulative loss of lives that may accrue during this supposed process.
It behooves all Jamaicans who would like a way out of the seemingly permanent mess of spiraling violent murders, to consider ways on their own to get out of the mess, since the Government is demonstrably not interested in doing anything about it.
One way to do so is to look to the past at the lowest levels of violent crimes in our modern history, then evaluate the attendant issues that may have impacted the data and see how we can formulate strategies based on the positives from that era.
How do we do that?
Glad you asked; before we get to that, it is important to reconcile that the government of Jamaica has maintained a stubborn and arrogant stance on the issue of violent crime, refusing to accede to people with knowledge choosing to listen to talking heads from the University of the West Indies who read something in a book then regurgitate it.
That is where the government formulates crime policy, aided by anti-police criminal-rights activists, and executed by a paper general who has never seen combat.
This arrangement is one of the greatest acts of deception ever perpetrated on the Jamaican people.
Let us see where we were in our recent past and how we managed to accomplish the relatively lower numbers.
|Year||# of Murders|
Let us begin with 1980, the period dotted with three red diamonds represented a critical mass as it relates to political killings. We see that, but for 1977 where 409 murders were reported to police, despite the turbulence, want, and shortages in the country, homicides were very low compared to where we are today.
After the 1980 elections, murders dropped precipitously, cut by almost 50% but did not exactly go back to pre-1980 numbers. Still, the numbers remained consistently low for eight (8) straight years, after which there was a significant jump in 1990 by more than 25 percentage points.
Of even greater note was the significance and alacrity with which the murder numbers took of after 1990 to the present day.
This data is critical if we are to understand what exactly occurred at the point where we had the lowest numbers after the dramatic rise in killings during the year 1980, why they dropped precipitously and remained so for eight(8) years, then thereafter took off like a rocketship?
So what was the significant single characteristic at play in the 8‑years dotted with a green tick?
Edward Seaga was elected Prime Minister in 1980, and his party remained in power for those 8‑years. Let me hasten to say that this analysis is not designed to make political points. Those who would read and analyze it with blinkered political lenses, one way or another, may do so; please remember your political deductions are not mine.
Edward Seaga, the political leader, was far from perfect. His political career is paradoxical, depending on who is telling his story.
Seaga loved Jamaica; he understood that there could be no real economic growth in an environment of criminality. Yet he cultivated one of the most historical garrisons in our country because his pride would not allow him to concede that the baby he created in transforming back-o-wall into what would later become the thriving modern community known as Tivoli gardens, in its structure of Donmanship was antithetical to the rule of law and therefore the effective governance of Jamaica.
Seaga’s supporters will argue that Tivoli gardens was a necessary evil to counter the PNP’s conflagration of garrisons; I would counter that all things considered, two wrongs do not make a right, but those are my personal views.“Edward Seaga nurtured Tivoli gardens as a parent his child, but he was not hesitant about giving to the police, the names of those he deemed to be out of [order] in the community.
Tivoli Gardens is a tiny slice of Jamaica; I would do a disservice to the facts if I made the case, that by controlling crime in that enclave, you effectively control crime across the length and breadth of Jamaica.
So we must examine the other factors that went into the massive reduction in murders relative to 1980 and when Seaga won the election and the period after the PNP’s Michael Manley beat him in the 1989 General elections.
During Seaga’s stewardship„ many Jamaican criminals fled to other countries, by utilizing unconventional means. Some went to Cuba; we later learned, then moved on to Canada. Michael Manley cultivated warm relations with Pierre Trudeau of Canada and Fidel Castro of Cuba; thus, there were channels open for them to exploit.
Others found ways into Britain and the United States.
The results of that period of exodus are well known; Jamaican criminals took with them a kind of ruthlessness that forced legislatures in those host countries to adopt [draconian] measures which ensnared and incarcerated thousands.
After serving lengthy prison sentences due to those measures, the significant upward bound in homicides in the year, 2002 may very well reflect when those criminals were starting to be released from prisons and deported to Jamaica.
That is not to say that deportees are directly responsible for the murderous onslaught. Still, it is fair to assert that they brought back with them a level of callousness and sophistication Jamaicans never knew before.
The Jamaica they returned to was not a Jamaica hostile to violence-producers. There was an administration in power that said quote; (‘anything a anything’).sic.
That colloquial terminology was a wink and a nod to the criminals to do as they please. They also returned to a police department immersed from top to bottom in corruption, a society culturally socialized into corruption, and a justice system ineffectual to the requisite task.
A change of Government in 2010 saw a dramatic reduction in murders from the preceding three years, and a further reduction for a few years thereafter, up to 2016 when the numbers went beserk again.
The logical deduction from this thesis is that itis reasonable to say that crime has thrived in Jamaica when the country’s leadership has been most acquiescent with its growth.
The country has not had the leadership of the type of Seaga on this issue under either political party, even though there has been a dip under the abbreviated Bruce Golding Administration.
The current leadership of Andrew Holness on [this] issue may be characterized as riddled with arrogance, ignorance, spite, and a willingness to enact structural changes in the Constabulary to the peril of hundreds of Jamaicans each year.
In the end, Andrew Holness, Horace Chang, and Antony Anderson may get their wish to restructure the JCF, just so that they may have bragging rights for the sake of change.
That changes will be a pyrrhic victory as (a) the changes are already proving to be at the expense of an effective police department & (b) by the time those changes take effect, there may not be anyone left alive.
This Prime Minister has demonstrated that he is a disrespectful anti-police antagonist, one who has caused a massive attrition of competent people from the department. Some of the people who have left the department haven’t even left the country. That is a clear indication that they are fed up with him and what he has meant to the profession they love.
After contributing to the continued destruction of the JCF, he engages in talking points in which he argues that the crime situation is outside the abilities of the JCF to handle.
‘No buster’, you hamstrung the police with your words and deeds, then complain that the crime situation is out of their abilities to control.
It is the equivalent of setting the house on fire then complaining about the firemen’s inability to put out the blaze.
The JCF has never been unable to cope; what the department needs are resolute leadership, something Andrew Holness should take a remedial class in understanding.
Mike Beckles is a former Police Detective, businessman, freelance writer, black achiever honoree, and creator of the blog mikebeckles.com.