Jamaica is a small third world country in the Caribbean with a population of approximately 2, 709, 300 people. The country faces many problems yearly but the worst is the ever increasing crime rate. In October 2011 Jamaica was ranked 3rd in a report of countries with the highest crime rates by the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development . The country has taken a turn for the worst over the past few years. Our local television stations and newspapers are packed with daily stories of robberies, political disputes, abuse in its many forms, murders, kidnappings, rapes and more recently, scamming. There are many factors which may contribute to crime and violence in our country. There are factors such as lack of jobs, lack of education, poverty, abuse or influence in homes, poor justice system and improper methods of dealing with conflict.
A primary contributing factor to crime and violence in Jamaica is lack of jobs. Upon leaving school it is extremely difficult for Jamaican youths to find jobs so many of them turn to crime to sustain themselves. Many young people who fail to get jobs, either because they were under qualified or there was just nowhere to accommodate them, turn to felonies such as robbery and drug sale (especially marijuana). When asked why they choose to rob and sell drugs, many persons reply that they are just trying to make a living. There are also some situations in which students whose parents are out of jobs, sell drugs to make money for their tuition.
Another primary contributing factor to crime and violence in our country is poverty. It is a well known fact that many families in Jamaica are poor. In many of these families there is usually only a single parent, more often than not- a mother, and several children. In these situations the parent is unable to care for so many children. We see families with five, seven and sometimes even ten or more children appear on our local news programs asking for assistance because their children cannot attend school or they cannot buy necessary items for them. Many of these families are not able to provide proper shelter or food for their children, and they cannot afford to send them to school. A child from such a home might turn out to be uneducated and may not be able to get a job in the future. Another child might decide that he cannot endure poverty any longer and may turn to crime to get “quick cash” or to try and make a living.
Lack of education is another contributing factor to crime and violence in Jamaica. It is said that “Education is the key to success”, but sadly in this area, Jamaican youths are found lacking. Many young people have to drop out of school early for a variety of reasons. Some are unable to find school fees, books and other necessary items to attend school, others are made to stay home to look after an ill parent, many teenage girls get pregnant in school also and end up leaving school to try and find work to look after themselves and their child and others decide that school is just “not working out” and they choose to drop out. With a lack of education and proper training, and with the economy being the way it is, it will be nearly impossible to get a job. Being uneducated and unable to get a job many young people turn to crime to support themselves.
The fourth contributing factor to crime and violence in Jamaica is abuse and/or influence in the home or a difficult home life. Some young people come from homes where they are abused or where there is violence. The popular saying “The child is a product of his environment” proves to be true. Children who grow up in homes where there is violence or criminal activities are more likely to grow up doing the same thing. Sadly, some children in our country are even introduced into criminal lifestyle by their parents. For example there have been cases where teenage girls are led to prostitution by their mothers who are also prostitutes.
A child such as this will grow up doing this and even if she decides to change, it will not be easy because it is what she is used to. Also if such a child wishes to change, other factors could also prevent it. Factors such as poverty and lack of education. She will find it difficult to get on her feet and will eventually be forced to continue the lifestyle. In such situations the parents are to be blamed for introducing the child to certain lifestyles but they can also indirectly cause their child to turn to a life of crime. An example of this would be a child who has a difficult home life where there is abuse or conflicts. As a result this child may have a low self esteem and self worth and will be easily influenced by his/her peers and may eventually get involved with things such as drugs. This same child may also have pent up anger and might be violent with his peers.
The influence of music is also a contributing factor to crime and violence in Jamaica. Dancehall music has become increasingly violent over the past few years and it is evident that it is influencing our people negatively, especially our young people. It is no secret that Jamaican teenagers look up to and imitate the behaviors of our Jamaican artists. Watching the incredibly violent videos of dancehall sensation Tommy Lee, it is hard to believe that he would allow the distribution of such violent songs and videos. His videos are so violent that they cannot be viewed on television and can only be found on the popular social network Youtube. His songs are also heavily edited to allow radio play.
With so many young people looking up to him and singing his lyrics it is nearly impossible for them not to be influenced by his negative lyrics. And this has indeed been happening in our society. My own brother told me about a situation at his school where a teenager wrestled a fellow class mate to the ground and rubbed his shoe in his face. When taken to the office the boy said his classmate had said something he did not like and he referred to popular lyrics from Tommy Lee. Here we are seeing where music is contributing to violence in our country. Many of these popular songs also include lyrics about the use of marijuana and other drugs. When teenagers listen to these songs and hear the people they look up talking about marijuana , they will want to try it too. This leads to the use and distribution of the illegal substance in our country.
Jamaica’s poor justice system is also contributing to crime and violence in our society. Recently we are seeing where persons suspected of committing crimes are held in prison and awaiting trial for months and sometimes years at a time. Others are never convicted and are left to roam the streets and even to commit other crimes. It is understandable that persons will want justice for crimes committed against them and/or their loved ones. It must be very difficult to see someone who is responsible for murder walking around free while someone‘s parent, friend or sibling‘s life has been cut short. The family or friend of this deceased person may eventually decide to stop hoping for the justice system to come through for them and may take matters into their own hands. When this person decides to end the life of the suspected murderer some friend or family of this person may decide to exact revenge on the disgruntled person, thus the chain of violence continues.
It has also come to light that some members of the police force are involved in crimes in the country. If we cannot trust the persons who are supposed to protect us and look out for our best interests, then who can we trust? This also explains why many people decide to take their own revenge instead of waiting for the justice system to work. Even police officers who are not involved in crime will sometimes cause the public to lose faith in the justice system by poor methods of investigation, inactivity and poor judgment. Many investigations and open cases are jeopardized by police officers who are either ignorant or just negligent of the procedures to take when gathering evidence. Considering all these problems with the justice system it is not hard to see why some citizens take matters into their own hands and exact their own revenge.
The final contributing factor to crime and violence in Jamaica is ineffective methods of dealing with conflict. The citizens of our country seem to not know how to correctly resolve problems. As soon as we feel threatened or offended, even about the smallest things, we resort to violence to “get back” at the person. We are not a people who will sit and talk through our problems, instead we find the quickest or easiest way to get revenge. Many people are injured and some even lose their lives over simple misunderstandings that could have been resolved without violence.
Though our country has a high crime rate we must continue to hope for and work towards a day when there is no violence and crime plaguing our little island. In order to achieve this goal we must first address the root causes of crime and violence, these include factors such as lack of jobs, lack of education, poverty, influence of music, abuse and influence in the home, ineffective methods of conflict resolution and poor justice system.