Solving the Crime Dilemma

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Crime scene yellow tape

Our government is no doubt focused on advancing Jamaica’s economic growth, but one thing that goes hand in hand with growth is a low crime rate. The idea may sound eerily similar the chicken and the egg dilemma; but what came first crime or growth? Regardless of your opinion, you cannot deny a correlation does exist.

Crime affects the individual, community, and society on a whole at every level.

It’s tempting to suggest that significant macroeconomic factors explain crime trends. It is indeed simple to find stories that may predict the new crime trends to explain the reason Jamaica’s economy tanked in 2008; however, there is more to this.

Criminologists claim that tough economic times make more people willing to commit crimes and that bad economies lead to more property crimes and robberies as criminals steal coveted items they cannot afford. The economic anxiety of bad times can lead to drastic rises domestic violence and higher consumption of mind-altering substances, leading to more destruction in general.

Economists tend to argue the opposite, that better economic times increases crime. More people are out and about flashing their shiny new smartphones and tablets, more new cars sit unattended in parking lots, and there are more big-screen televisions in homes to steal. Better economic times also mean more demand for drugs and alcohol.

Do you agree with the criminologist or the economists?

A high rate of crime has many adverse repercussions, such as:

1. A higher cost of doing business – business will now have to employ different forms of security and allocate resources to repair damages incurred.

2. Brain Drain – crime impacts the human capital as skilled workers migrate to find a better quality of life. Let us not forget, during times of extreme violence in communities; schools are closed causing instability and shift the priority from education to safety.

3. Budget – Every year our televisions are blocked out for days as the government and opposition debate the budget. How much to spend education, healthcare, security … a politicians phone bill? With a high crime problem, more funds will be diverted from other areas such as education to help combat the crime dilemma.

The bottom line: Crime is episodic, and there is no singular effect of the economy on crime. To understand and prevent crime, it is, therefore, necessary to understand what type of period we are in. It’s also essential to understand what forces are at work locally, rather than focus on the national picture.


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