Most Jamaicans still believe crime and violence is the country’s most pressing problem, the latest Gleaner-commissioned Bill Johnson polls shows.
This is despite a drop in the country’s record high murder rate. Murders dropped for a seventh time since the start of the year in July. There were 96 murders last month, 49 less than the same time last year. In total, murders are down by 254 for the January to July period this year when compared with the same period in 2005.
The poll, conducted across the island’s 14 parishes between July 15 and July 16 among 1,008 Jamaicans, found that a steady 72 per cent of people think crime and violence is still the most urgent problem.
This percentage has remained unchanged over the last three months, as the same percentage of people shared this view in May and March.
Many of them felt this wave of violence was being caused by the country’s monster unemployment rate, which currently stands highest among the nation’s youth, the majority of them being young men aged 14-24 years.
Poverty and a lack of educational opportunities factored in as the other two things people felt were the main contributors to the high pattern of crime and violence.
Twenty per cent of those interviewed felt a lack of jobs is the most pressing problem. This was down from the 28 per cent in March who felt the issue was the most burdensome facing the country.
Opposition spokesman on national security, Derrick Smith, has endorsed the findings of the poll.
He said results are consistent with way Jamaicans have felt for the last 10 years.
“They are concerned about the high levels of unemployment, in particular amongst young people and a lot of them are of the view that the ‘devil finds work for idle hands’. So the vast [numbers] of unemployed individuals are finding being drawn to crime as a sort of alternative, because they are frustrated and hopeless,” he said.
He said unemployment worsened because of the lack of economic growth in the country over the years. The economy grows by a mere two per cent annually figures show and the country has public debt that ballooned by some $4 billion a month this year, bringing the total to $858 billion.
“The economy is just not expanding and not creating growth and not creating an adequate amount of jobs on an annual basis,” he said.
Financial analyst John Jackson, while not entirely convinced by the Bill Johnson findings, agreed bad economic management is to be blamed for the lack of employment opportunities in Jamaica. He, however, said that together with crime and violence, unemployment are equal concerns facing Jamaicans.
“Crime is a major problem because it is tying in with economic development and economic growth. It drives up the cost of production, it keeps capital out and it also drives Jamaicans to seek employment and livelihood elsewhere,” he said.
“Some of your best people leave your shores you don’t benefit from the skills and the investment in human capital that the society should benefit from.”
What is your opinion is the most pressing problem in Jamaica today?
Crime and violence – 72%
Lack of jobs – 20%
Poverty – 6%
Financial problems – 4%
What do you think are the main causes of crime and violence?
Unemployment – 66%
Poverty – 14%
Lack of education – 8%
Gov’t/corruption – 6%
No money – 3%
Laziness – 3%
In some cases respondents agreed to more than one option.