We are a nation of criminals

November 18, 2016
A policeman uses his baton in attempts to disperse looters on the scene of an accident in which a truck transporting Heineken beer along the Linstead Bypass in St Catherine, overturned in March 2010.

This past week, there were a couple of things that revealed to me why crime continues to be a problem in Jamaica and no matter what the authorities do, things won't change. Well, not unless we do.

The first had to do with an accident that occurred on Spur Tree Hill in Manchester. A truck laden with cases of liquor crashed, and before you could say "J. Wray and Nephew", residents of nearby communities descended and made off with their loot. It led prominent psychologist Dr Leahcim Semaj to hit out at the behaviour.

"No matter how deprived you are, it doesn't mean that you have to behave in a depraved manner. We have a culture in Jamaica that says that if something touches the ground, it is not yours anymore. If cement fall off a truck, if drinks falls off a truck (it's stolen). We have seen the depravity even to the level that there are persons who are dying in the crashed vehicle sometimes, and there are people taking off their watches," Semaj said. His words brought back memories of my days reporting when I covered an accident on Spanish Town Road, where I saw people taking the belongings of people who had perished. They took watches, shoes, wallets, you name it. But there were people who thought Dr Semaj was talking rubbish. I even got into a brief spat with someone on Twitter who called me 'pretentious' because I didn't support the idea of stealing people's things.

I find it incredible that people in Jamaica believe that because something is at a crash site it no longer has an owner. This kind of behaviour is passed on to kids. When I was in school, I could leave my schoolbag anywhere and go play scrimmage and not worry about anyone taking anything from my bag. My son, however, lives a different experience. He left his phone in his bag in class to go to the restroom. When he returned, his bag had been turned inside out and his phone taken by persons unknown. In a class full of kids, nobody saw anything.




The other thing that disturbed me was the public reaction to popular entertainer Vybz Kartel being moved from the Horizon Correctional Facility, allegedly because he was believed to be recording from prison. People lashed out at former TOK member Flexx for comments he made on Entertainment Report about Kartel. People said he was envious as his career was going nowhere. There have even been threats against him.

And when you look at how people justify the ongoing lotto scam, which has unleashed a new level of criminality never seen before in this country, do we really believe crime can be controlled? Is this what we are? People who thrive on stealing and who glorify criminals and accommodate criminality? Based on the evidence, we may be.

If that is the case, then how do we intend to solve the crime problem? Honour among thieves is not just a phrase, it is a way of life for those who choose to prey on the misfortune of others. That being the case, no matter how many policemen and how much technology we throw at the problem, crime will never be controlled.

Because how then do you control crime when most of us - by our behaviour - are criminals. Dr Semaj summed it up best: we are a nation of thieves.

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