By: Toraino Beckford
Ever wonder why inner city residents demonstrate and protest when the police kill dons and strong men associated with their communities? One of the most straightforward explanations is that the person was killed extra-judicially and a successful arrest could have been made. Another explanation could be that the police were wrong about the victim being a don or even a criminal at all. These two explanations are valid in many instances where we see inner city residents protesting the killing of an alleged don. However, there are instances where the police legitimately kill an area leader or a don and the residents protest anyway and even refrain from denying that the person was a criminal.
This is a complicated phenomenon and I will proceed to dissect it to the best of my understanding. If inner city residents are protesting the killing of a criminal don then that would make them sympathetic to crime and possibly enablers of crime in their own way. How do we address this unfortunate phenomenon which I termed “community criminal relations “? In order to remedy such a social ill, we must first understand it. We must be conscious of the factors that produce such a behavior. Apart from the instances where gangsters organize protests and force the citizens to take part, this paper seeks to examine the instances where inner city residents protest for a criminal don without external encouragement.
There are likely three main factors at play. These are:
1) The Profiteering from Crime
2) The Anti Informer Culture
3) The Robin Hood Survival Mechanism
The Profiteering from Crime
The first and most evident factor is that these resident may in fact be benefitting from the criminal ventures of these dons. In communities where people have fatherless homes, poor educational background, limited access to jobs and the experience of having to live with violence and politically instituted dons that they could not reject, many inner city residents have developed a culture of depending on dons for whatever financial shortcoming that they themselves cannot remedy. We have all heard the tales of people who cannot find a job due to their place of residence being labelled as inner city or ghetto. Although benefitting from the proceeds of crime is a despicable act in itself, being in an environment that encourages violence, indifference and survival of the fittest have forced many inner city residents to adopt the practice of seeking assistance from criminal dons.
1) Create more job opportunities that is compatible with that particular demography: This simply means that employment that does not demand a rich academic history and any long term commitment should be made more readily available to inner city residents. Mining jobs, construction jobs and road repair projects is compatible with the labour patterns of inner city resident who in many cases require quick and short term employment which demands no training. This measure targets inner city resident who are unable to hold down or commit to long term employment and who are on the border line of crossing over to crime as a means of getting by.
2) More convenient and accessible forms of employment: This simply means that steps are taken to make inner city residents more aware of job opportunities and more accessible to them by having community Employment Centers where people can go to and get assigned to work or receive resume writing assistance etc. A database of different jobs and everyday labour demanded by citizens can be made available in these Employment Centers.
3) Encourage business ownership within these communities: This solution consists of residents being guided to crowdfund businesses by pooling money together from family and friends. Residents should be encouraged to unite and crowdfund their own restaurants, bars, bag juice factories and other small and medium enterprises so that they can have a source of income and a source of generational wealth to leave to their children.
4) Inner City Loans Agency: A government sponsored agency which gives small interest free loans to inner city residents in desperate need can go a far way in giving people an alternative to going to their local don. Sometimes a two day loan of JA$500 can make a big difference in a desperate person’s life and make suffering citizens have more peace of mind that society made an effort to have their backs. This allows inner city residents to feel more cared for by the wider society whom they currently feel distant from.
Anti Informer Culture
We all know that there is a prevalent culture of non-compromise with the police that we normally refer to as the anti-informer culture. This mentality actually emerged during slavery as a reaction to perceived unjust authority and has survived to this day because the average Jamaican still perceive authority in this country to be unjust. Therefore, people have held on to this rather ancient expression of defiance. To many inner city residents, informing to the police is a “catch 22” because if they tell the police about the same criminals who are known to be connected to the politicians then the word will just spread and the very same criminals will target the informer after hearing back from the police or their political controllers.
Therefore the rules are different in inner cities where people are held in bondage by criminals, most of whom have strong political backing. The votes of inner city residents are rumored to be monitored and strict action is taken for defying the voting demands of the gangsters who it is said have ways of knowing how these people voted. There is no doubt that the anti-informer culture is being perpetuated as a reaction to the entrenched nature of corruption in Jamaica. Now that we understand the plight of inner city residents and why they refrain from giving intelligence to the police, we can put that radically misplaced behavior into justifiable context. The problem here is not only the unjust nature of government but the perception of the people towards government. Therefore, in order for us to lay the anti-informer culture to rest, we must rid government of corruption while reinforcing confidence in the people that the corruption is not just hidden but gone.
1) Political Reshuffling and Decentralization of Authority – The hardest system to regulate is an institution associated with power such as government because government can always bribe and intimidate the regulators or discredit them otherwise. Having the compliance and finances of an entire nation at its disposal, governments can infiltrate or manipulate almost any regulatory body entrusted with the duty of regulating government corruption. The only cure to this cancerous growth of corruption is to purge government and re-elect new politicians and or decentralize authority.
2) Non Traceable Intelligence Submissions- Develop non electronic means by which people can submit intelligence while assuring their anonymity. With all the encouragement for people to give information to the police, many people still fear being traced after providing information and would comply, even without a reward, if they knew that their identities were virtually untraceable in the system that they used. Public drop boxes and trusted public servants can be depended on to rely untraceable intelligence from weary residents to the police.
3) Political Convictions- It is the duty of the wider Jamaican society to secure multiple convictions of high profile politicians in order to demand that inner city residents trust the system and end the anti- informer culture. Judging by the corrupt state of the country, a lot of the intelligence being submitted will likely expose political corruption and who knows more than inner city residents? Haven’t they seen it all? The wider Jamaican society must win over the trust and the compliance of inner city residents, therefore freeing the nation of its favorite scapegoats for crime.
4) Education and Sensitization Programs- A lot of inner city residents have actually forgotten the purpose of the anti-informer culture and simply will not “inform” because Jamaican roots culture has condemned the term “informer” as being synonymous to that of a traitor. Also, many have forgotten the value of moral accountability and will not expose criminal activities simply out of a lack of care. If we educate and sensitize these people on the importance of holding all wrongdoers accountable then they will consciously realize the consequences of their inaction.
The Robin Hood Survival Mechanism
Why do inner city residents accept assistance from known criminals knowing that they are benefitting from ill-gotten gains? Many Jamaicans have rightfully condemned this act of criminal compliance which is observable within many inner city communities. This act arguably legitimizes criminality as an acceptable trade to aspire to and many inner city youths become victim to this illusion of becoming a legitimate criminal don or a Robin Hood.
It may come as no surprise that this defiant survival mechanism stretches back to slavery where defiant slaves and maroons would raid British supplies and feed the needy. This act was not only legitimate but heroic as stealing from an oppressive authority has historically been a celebrated form of defiance.
So why do people comply with the “Robin Hood Survival Mechanism” in inner city communities to this day?
The reason may be because the environment which led to it has virtually remained unchanged. With the exception of not being coerced for free labour, the opportunities available to many inner city residents since slavery have only improved as a by product of the innovation of the times. Illiteracy and a lack of a means to earn a honest living still affect many people in Jamaica. Without justifying it, if we want a certain behavior to go away we must change the social conditions which produces and encourages such a behavior.
1) Assist inner city residents in crowdfunding businesses (as stated above) and maintaining progressive and conflict-free business relations so that they can develop a culture of entrepreneurship and leave generational wealth after death.
2) Improve access to efficient education so that inner city youths have increased chances of bettering themselves through education and not through criminal activities.
3) Educate the inner city communities against the culture of “donship” while encouraging them to expose politicians who align themselves with inner city dons.
4) Improve social relations between inner city communities and the wider society so that inner city residents can feel less like outcasts and more like equal citizens of this beloved nation.
This paper is not aimed at justifying the shortcomings of inner city residents who comply with the culture of crime but to give a socio-psychological assessment of the factors which produce and or encourage such a socially radical behavior as “community criminal relations”. By providing constructive criticisms and solutions to the social situation being discussed, this paper aims at providing the framework for pragmatic and long term social intervention into the affairs of inner city communities. In order to remedy the problems associated with the Jamaican society, one must critically assess the problems without bias or without protecting any individual or group from their share of the blame.