Who says crime doesn’t pay? And who exactly benefits?
These are serious and probing questions that most of us Jamaicans don’t what to talk about… not unless it affects us directly.
One of my all-time favourite films is The Great Train Robbery – that 1855 train robbery, which shook the sensibilities of Victorian England.
When it was first introduced to me back in the early 80s, it was done within the context of a training environment that suited its unique purpose at that particular time.
There is so much one can learn from this film, no matter what the perspective or the reason.
However, it wasn’t until several years later when I purchased and read a copy of Michael Crichton’s New York Times Bestseller book bearing the same title, The Great Train Robbery, which presented me with another perspective, this time as it relates to vex subject of crime and violence.
Now, Crime and Violence, the most notorious evil brothers, have been running amuck in our society and seem to be holding everyone ransom. They are also responsible for the stunted growth many areas of our productive lives – tourism and foreign direct investments are two economic growth areas that it are being said to be directly affected.
The book’s introduction, more so than the substantive issue that it dealt with – the planning and execution of the robbery, the trials, and eventual capture and sentencing of the perpetrators. I find it very instructive, and so I have reproduced an excerpt which showed the author’s attempt at to putting into perspective why The Great Train Robbery, a dastardly criminal act that is described as a “daring,” “audacious,” and “masterful” act that held Victorian England then, and even now, in awe.
Michael Crichton writes, and I quote:
“What was really so chocking about The Great Train Robbery was that it suggested, to the sober thinker, that the elimination of crime might not be an inevitable consequence of forward-marching progress? Crime could no longer be linked to the Plague, which had disappeared with changing social conditions to become a dimly remembered threat of the past. Crime was something else, and criminal behaviour would not simply fade away.
“A few daring commentators even had the temerity to suggest that crime was not linked to social conditions at all, but rather sprang from some other impulse. Such opinions were, to say the least, highly distasteful.
“They remain distasteful to the president day. More than a century after The Great Train Robbery, and more than a decade after another spectacular English train robbery, the ordinary Western urban man still clings to the belief that crime results from poverty, injustice, and poor education. Our view of the criminal is that of a limited, abused, perhaps mentally disturbed individual who breaks the law out of a desperate need – the drug addict standing as a sort of modern archetype for this person. And indeed when it was recently reported that the majority of violent street crime in New York City was not committed by addicts, that finding was greeted with skepticism and dismay, mirroring the perplexity of our Victorian forebears a hundred years ago.
“Crime became a legitimate focus for academic inquiry in the 1870s, and in succeeding years criminologists have attacked all the old stereotypes, creating a new view of crime that has never found favour with the general public. Experts now agree on the following points:
“First, crime is not a consequence of poverty. In the works of Barnes and Teeters (1949), “Most offences are committed through greed, not need.”
“Second, criminals are not limited in intelligence, and it is probable that the reverse is true. Studies of prison populations show that inmates equal the general public in intelligence tests – and yet prisoners represent that fraction of lawbreakers who are caught.
“Thirdly, the vast majority of criminal activity goes unpunished. This is inherently a speculative question, but some authorities argue that only 3 to 5 percent of all crimes are reported: and of reported crimes, only 15 to 20 percent are never “solved” in the usual sense of the word. This is true of even the most serious offences, such as murder. Most police pathologists laugh at the idea of that “murder will out.”
“Similarly, criminologists dispute the traditional view that ‘crime does not pay.’ As early as 1877, an American prison investigator, Richard Dugdale, concluded that ‘we must dispossess ourselves of the idea that crime does not pay. In reality, it does.” Ten years later, the Italian criminologist, Colajanni went a step further, arguing that on the whole, crime pays better than honest labour. By 1949, Barnes and Teeters stated flatly, “it is primarily the moralist who still believes that crime does not pay.”
“Our moral attitudes toward crime account for a peculiar ambivalence toward criminal behaviour itself. On the one hand, it is feared, despised, and vociferously condemned. Yet it is also secretly admired, and we are always eager to hear the details of some outstanding criminal exploit. This attitude was clearly prevalent in 1855, for The Great Train Robbery was not only shocking and appalling, but also “daring,” “audacious,” and “masterful.”
What Michael had explained above, mirrors exactly what now obtains in Jamaica as it relates to crime and violence. No matter how dastardly an act of crime and violence is, we continue to be ambivalent toward criminal the behaviour itself. Because, on the one hand, it is feared, despised, and vociferously condemned. Yet it is also secretly admired, not merely by those who are always eager to hear the details of some outstanding criminal exploit, but those for whom it has created a thriving business environment. Can you imagine if all crime and violence stops tomorrow? Have you ever wonder what would happen to our thriving and mushrooming private security sector? So, you there’s a lot at stake here, and indeed, many are benefitting from the exploits of crime and violence. Without it, they’d disappear like smoke. Billions in investments would be lost, and thousands of Jamaicans would be jobless without the crime and violence that we so feared, despised, and vociferously condemned.
That’s my two cents worth, what say you?
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