Communities key to crime reduction, says expert

| 29/05/2012

_DSC9414-web_1.jpg(CNS): There is a need for stronger community commitment in order to help reduce the levels and impact of violent crime in the region, Professor Anthony Harriott, Director of the University of the West Indies Institute of Criminal Justice and Security said in Cayman last week. The crime expert said that where there was strong community cohesion there was more informal control over crime. Speaking at a regional bank conference he told the audience that a shift was required across regional communities away from the idea that security is the responsibility of the authorities alone. But he also pointed to a need to tackle corruption among police and politicians before wider crime could be addressed.

He said ordinary people express deep concerns about crime as well as politicians and business people but dealing with the issue at a policing level alone would not reduce crime rates. Professor Harriott, who is also a head of department at the Caribbean Development Bank, was speaking at the annual governors meeting when he said tackling crime required a concerted public effort as well as from the authorities. But the expert warned that a pre-requisite for reducing crime was anti-corruption efforts.

“The big problem in the Caribbean region is violent crime,” he said. “Recent reports, including a World Bank report, have noted that the Caribbean ranks number two in the world as a region when it comes to social criminal violence, so we have a very serious and very difficult problem.”

Taking his statistics from a recent study by the United Nations Development programme entitled: Caribbean Human Development Report: Human Development and the Shift to Better Citizen Security, Prof Harriett said crime was a critical social problem.

While it had been recognised as retarding economic growth, making life difficult for people, creating a loss of confidence in Caribbean countries leading to migration, the professor said what was also important was that the region’s general populations recognised this in some instances as the highest ranking social problem even in the context of a deep economic crisis.

“It’s not just the elite and the academics who are saying this, it is the general population of the Caribbean who are saying that this warrants close attention by our governments and regional institutions,” he said.

According to the report, the Caribbean and Latin America is home to 8.5 percent of the world’s population, yet it concentrates some 27 percent of the world’s homicides.
The increasedprevalence of gang crime in the region had caused the occurrence of violent crime to increase, the professor said. 13 per cent of the 12,000 people from seven Caribbean countries who responded to the survey on which the report was based confirmed that gangs were in their neighbourhood.

“The evidence shows that where gangs exist there is a dramatic increase in victimisation rates for different crimes. In most cases where gangs exist it increases the victimisation rate by 100 per cent,” said Harriott. “This is a central issue for Caribbean countries.”
Research showed that risk factors associated with joining gangs in the Caribbean included poor school achievement and commitment, where parents favoured anti-social behavior, “a robust risk factor for people gettinginto gangs”, as well as associating with anti-social peers, he added.

Community was very important because it offered opportunities for informal control of young people and put pressure on delinquent youth to avoid gang activity and gang involvement. Availability of guns was another risk factor. Young people’s sense of belonging to their community and country was also very important as was whether they believed others in their community respected them and whether there were channels of participation within these communities as well as at a national level, Professor Harriott explained

“Where we have strong community cohesion you tend to have some informal control. For a lot of intervention efforts these initiatives are likely to succeed where there is involvement from the community,” he said. “Co-production of security is an important shift that needs to be made within the community, away from the traditional notion that security is solely the responsibility of enforcement professionals.”   

Jamaica, the professor said, had actually managed to reduce its homicide rates by 30 per cent by introducing a robust gang reduction strategy. The Jamaica success had been as a result of obtaining social and political consensus, the first time he had ever seen such agreement in his lifetime. “I think it succeeded because suppression was coupled with alternatives being offered to young people. There were some important community based initiatives, interventions centred on work for young people. I believe that helped to make law enforcement more effective,” the professor added.

International intervention was also important for Jamaica’s success because high end crime was a trans-national and a regional phenomenon.  “We need to cooperate at a regional and international level if we are to make an important dent in the problem,” he said.  Anti-corruption efforts were a condition of success and anti-corruption efforts, aimed at the law enforcement agencies and the political system were very important for progress, he warned.  

Echoing Professor Harriott’s comments, the report found that “alarm raised by increase in crime levels in the Caribbean has often led to short-sighted, mano dura (iron fist) policies, which have proven ineffective and, at times, detrimental to the rule of law…A key message of the report is that Caribbean countries need to focus on a model of security based on the human development approach, whereby citizen security is paramount, rather than on the traditional state security model, whereby the protection of the state is the chief aim. Indeed, the contrast between prevention on the one hand and repression and coercion on the other is ill conceived.”

Social inclusion to help prevent crime and violence and efficient and effective law enforcement were by no means incompatible or mutually exclusive, it went on to say.
“In a truly democratic society, broad based social inclusion and swift criminal justice–or “prevention” and “coercion”—serve to reinforce and complement each other. This is one of the most important lessons to be taken from this report – and not only for the Caribbean but for all of Latin America as well,” the report said.

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  1. The Thinker: says:

    Are you kidding! 

    Jamaica, the professor said, had actually managed to reduce its homicide rates by 30 per cent by introducing a robust gang reduction strategy. This came about after Dudus was arrested and sent of to the U.S> for trial and the Jamaica Police Force went in to his territory and confronted those left in charge by Dudus with the only thing they same to understand! A few dead bodies.

    We don't want to see this happening in Cayman, so thanks but no thanks Professor! 

    What we need are more good Caymanian police who are trained by some of the older retired local police who did not let their jobs rule their compassion. But would talk to those who they understood as young people who had personal problems, and are just frustrated and feel left out by society. Let's us stop looking to the outside to fix our problems. These so called experts are  paid quite well for their speaking engagements, and it is my opinion, that, they will tell us whatever they think we want to hear.

    Lets stop wasting money on these so called experts and utilize our latent resources that we have right here in the Island.


  2. Angel of truth says:

    Why is this problem always bleamed on the police and the community? the police is only trying to eat like everyone else and the community? well the community it has its faults.

    The real problem is the pollitical system and the people who control the wealth and power, these people with there greed make people feel powerless in there lives to help there families,they are working day and night to keep a roof over there heads and find food, then is paid 3 to 4 dollars a hour which the people who controls call capitalism and gloablisation.

    We know who the real fool is, beliving the lies of prosperity and jobs, jobs for who? all i can say is the children are comeing and they do not see a future so they have nothing to lose, they need the truth, the crime cannot get any better untill the youth has somthing to live for, the old way of devide and rule is to walk into a lions den, you are not invincible do not see something and distroy it then wonder what happend when it back fires, learn from the past there is many failed sociaties and you are the head of this problem and not everyone wants your kind of prosperity and bribeing with your mouth, and of cource your money .

    The truth is very ogly and we in the world has ignored who is really responsable for the mess that we are all into.  



  3. Anonymous says:

    Two things work against community lead crime reduction:


    1. Cayman is tribal. We have Caymanian, Jamaican, Philippino, European, and a number of other tribes. The level of trust between these groups is very low especially when you factor in the great Caymanian versus expat divide.


    2. Cayman is very small. The bad guys/gals can easily find out where you live; therefore the threat of serious intimidation is very real.




    1. Integration between tribes. This will be a very slow multi-generation solution. Don't hold your breath.


    2. High conviction rate of criminals AND their accomplices. People will turn in the bad guys/gals only if they feel free from intimidation.


    Sadly, I am not optimistic.



  4. Anonymous says:

    I am sick and tired of its up to the community to control crime…you know what when the community reports crime, the funny thing is the criminal knows exactly who reports it…so again, I don't think anyone really should involve themselves unfortunately!!! There is no one to protect them and the laws in the cayman islands don't allow you to protect yourselves!!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      Unfortunately, this fact is confirmed over and over again by the trial testimony reported in the news. The only community action around here is by the criminal community. They are multi-generation career criminals who have no skills but crime. The only math they know is multiplication. Fix the education system right now and in 10 or 20 years you will see a difference.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree with you.  The community can't control criminals, only report what it sees/hears/knows.  Oh, and the laws say  you can't protect yourself, that gives great reassurance to those that might report what they see/hear/know.  

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree to an extent. The report does make a good point of saying that the community needs to be involed in crime prevention. That is how Cayman operatedin the "good ole days". However the important point was that before the community can even begin to affect the level of crime, corruption must be stopped. I believe that this is what is the root cause of Cayman's increasing crime. If our leader are corrupt how can you expect the citizens not to be?