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Are common theories of crime applicable here?

By Theodore Lewis

 Another explanation of crime is classical theory the main premise of which is that the commission of crime is based on free will. Advocates  believe that crime could be controlled via a system of punishment. Fear of punishment leads people to make socially desirable choices. They will resist crime if they think they will be caught and dealt with. They will proceed with crime if they perceive the odds of getting caught to be high. I think that the classical theory helps explain crime here. Perpetrators look at the evidence and fancy their chances. The bar against criminality is low.

Classical theory can be seen prototypically in Singapore where the chances of being caught are good and where punishment instils fear. Don’t be caught with drugs there. They have 30 people on death row for bringing in heroin and cocaine to the country, or for possession, and the hanging of a Nigerian footballer who got caught, is the proof that they mean business. Singapore has long abandoned the Privy Council, as all countries claiming to be independent should. In 2011 there were just 16 murders there, in a population of  5.1 million people. Along with a low crime rate,  Singapore has one of the most dynamic economies in the world,  with an unemployment rate of about two per cent. About 85 per cent of the people  live in housing managed by the state. The slums of the 1940s and 1950s are no more. 

I think that we must pay attention to classical theory in the country. Crime detection rates have to improve. Strategies have to be adopted to improve the chances of people coming forward with information about crime in their communities.  

Three questions can draw us closer to working theories of crime here, leading to solutions, namely (a) Why are Indian youth not killing each other anywhere in the country, including humble settlements where the people are poor? (b) Why does the murder rate in Tobago continue to be low, much lower than in Trinidad, and (c) Why are black girls in the country generally more attuned to education and are performing better at all levels of schooling than do boys?

The first of these questions will bring us to family structure, inevitably. The young Indian male is not afraid of marriage. The young Indian woman is thus less likely to find herself being a baby mama, unmarried  and exposed at a young age, with implications for the quality of life she would have thereafter. The Indian youth sees many examples of elders in his community joining together, as opposed to fighting. He sees that marriage is central to life in his community. Most Indian villages have viable cricket teams and tournaments that help mobilise youth. Cricket competition could lead to fete matches with attendant bonding. Indian men meet each other in the Hindu temples, in the Presbyterian Church, in mosques, and in village weddings. They collaborate in business. 

The Tobago question also gets us back to family, but more than this, to community. We do not hear of gangs in Tobago. Village life there traditionally leads to cooperation, not war. The education question also gets us back to the home.  It is interesting to hear what Jevaughn Bruce, the top Tobago boy in this year’s SEA had to say about his routine in the examination year, and the role of his parents, father very much included, in it. And his father, the principal of a school, would have either laid down the law for Jevaughn, or be the enforcer of laws laid down by his mother, a teacher.

Black boys need fathers at every stage in their lives, but especially at the stage where they approach puberty and on into adolescence. Borrowing from a colleague who toils tirelessly in her school, I ask, “If fathers are not there for them, who will teach these boys how to be men and to be model citizens?”

Let me jump from Jevaughn to the young boy slightly younger than he who recently got killed by a bullet in east Port of Spain. This was the third time in his short life that this young boy had been shot.  Somebody should own up to the killing of this boy. Come forward like a man and own up to this dastardly killing. These children are put through an obstacle course from early in life. It’s a question of luck egalitarianism. They are forced to go up the down escalator, like salmon against the current. These circumstances preclude learning. It is going to lead to an intergenerational problem, and if the society does not solve it, illiteracy will beget illiteracy in black urban areas. Education and learning have to be reclaimed in high-crime areas. These children, especially black boys, have to be taught. 


Part I appeared on Tuesday.

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