We welcome recent data from the police showing an eight per cent drop in the homicide rate since the start of the year, compared to the same period a year ago, and are thankful for the small mercy that it represents. For when it comes to human beings, every life far exceeds any value that can be put on it. And although we have in the past experienced declines like this one, only to see the rates rise again, nothing is to be gained from a sceptical, or, what would be worse, a complacent attitude.
The police, although badly compromised by charges and allegations of corruption within their ranks, deserve recognition for every bit of success they register in making our society safe for citizen and visitor alike, assuming, of course, that they are at least part responsible. But as every police investigator knows, the timely cooperation of a willing citizenry is a critical aspect of any successful investigation, making ordinary citizens as much stakeholders in their own safety as the police themselves, who are paid to serve and to protect.
It is in this regard that we are particularly pleased to highlight the invaluable work being carried out by many organisations all across the country, voluntary for the most part, that have banded together in the Violence Prevention Alliance. Mandated by no less a body than the World Health Organisation, the VPA has highlighted violence as being a health issue, calling attention to statistics from the Ministry of Health. These reveal that over 40 per cent of the budgetary allocations to hospitals are consumed by violence-related injuries that are patently preventable, most of them the result of interpersonal and community-based conflicts. In dollar terms, this is more than $6.6 billion in the current financial year, a sum that could have been put to better use, for example, making our hospitals state-of-the-art institutions or in training more health professionals.
Knowing how much better is an ounce of prevention than a pound of cure, we are pleased that our own PALS is a member of the alliance, along with Change From Within, Dispute Resolution Foundation and other initiatives focused on shaping minds, young and old, in methods of resolving conflict and in moulding and remoulding sound character. What seems to be developing, since 1994 when PALS, declaring the first Tuesday in March Peace Day, launched its initiative in the schools, is a peace movement that now spans scores of communities and organisations from the business sector, the Church and, of course, the public sector.
Peace cannot work in one community but not in another, in Kingston but not Montego Bay. Peace will not come in pieces. Every community, every parish and organisation, has to speak out and work for peace.