Op-Ed :- Policing is ineffective in sustainably reducing crime rates

Find below Opinion Editorial on Crime Situation in St.Kitts-Nevis by Former RCMP and Member of Operation Future Daniel MacMullin

Daniel McMullin

Daniel McMullin

Sadly, crime continues dominant in the headlines in the Federation, even more sadly is the response continues to be one dimension, more police, more enforcement, greater punishment. In essence a reactive response to crime, the symptom as opposed to a proactive address to the root problems that cause the crime. Don’t confuse me with a thug a hug, I believe if you can’t do the time don’t do the crime. And, there are those in the Federation that need to be legally prosecuted, convicted and sentenced. However, this is only a small portion of the problem.
Policing is one of the most ineffective manners in sustainably reducing crime rates, it is monstrously expensive and at best can only provide a temporary relief if nothing is done to address the root cause, at worst it can make the matter even worse by further marginalizing and alienating a population. Every major city in the United States at one time or another has espoused their success at addressing their gang problem through enforcement strategies focused around new strike forces and zero tolerance, these same cities see the problem return, often worse, when the city can no longer afford these strategies. As financially these strategies cannot continue indefinitely and the root cause of the gang culture is not addressed. As a simple example we can hire 5000 police officers place one at the kitchen table of ever home in the Federation to ensure people cannot move without being under surveillance crime is under control and in due course the financial cost is not sustainable and crime returns. Why, the root cause of the crime is not addressed.
In essence policing plays a key role in the orderly conduct of a community, but they cannot do it alone. In recent times we have heard a cry from the police that they need assistance, we should be calling them and reporting what we see, help them to capture and prosecute offenders, but again this is a reactive approach to the symptoms not the problem and will not produce a long-term sustainable solution. The gang culture which is the root of much, not all, but much of the violence grows out of a community of youths whose basic needs are not being met. These needs are far greater than simply financial, all to often the solution proposed is limited to economics when the problem is much more complex, gang members report that needs met by gang involvement are emotional and social; love, friendship, acceptance and support, far more than financial. These are basic needs of a youth as important as eating and sleeping in healthy development. Further, we have a generation of youth being raised in unimaginable violence who have little value for their own lives so why would they value yours. In many cases acts of violence are seen as honorable as violence is in retaliation for loss of surrogate brothers, talk of this violence being “senseless” agitates because it devalues the lives of these surrogate brothers and reaffirms the commitment to the gang and the anti-social behavior, they don’t care for us so why should we care for them. The world supports the Americans launching war in Iraq and Afghanistan in retaliation for the death of their citizens in 9/11 and yet we call the gang retaliation for the death of a gang member senseless. Post traumatic stress disorder is a recognized disorder generating headlines and used to explain anti-social behavior amongst soldiers returning from war zones, in some cases these soldiers have not experienced near the loss of some of our youth in the gang culture in the Federation. Conversations with these youth show a staggering level of anger and a willingness to lash out at all around.
The purpose of this narrative is not to criticize the police but to highlight the necessity of understanding the complexity of the problem and the need to develop a comprehensive, long term sustainable program to provide a permanent solution. The police play a role, but only a role they are not key. What is key is developing programs that meet the needs of our youth, both physical and emotional, this can be found in such simple things as community gardens and day care centers, to as complex as victim counseling recognizing that the victimizer may also be a victim themselves. Few gang members that I have spoken to are not victims themselves in many cases they have suffered the most.


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