Submitted by Yardbroom
By way of introduction I offer you one view of a psychological perspective on why people commit crime; it is not a definitive one by any means but it is certainly worthy of some consideration. “Every human behaviour is done to serve a certain important psychological goal including the crimes people commit. What seems irrational from the outside like crime is actually an attempt to do something completely rational like reaching a certain psychological goal.
For example if a child felt inferior during his childhood then there is a big possibility that he will strive for superiority as an adult. Now what if that child didn’t manage to achieve his goal using the normal ways such as academic or financial success? At this point he might decide to become superior by being dangerous or in other words by becoming a criminal.”
If we accept that psychological factors, during human development influence behaviour. We could then look for other elements, in this instance unemployment.
In research conducted by Naci Mocan at Louisiana State University, “who studied state-level unemployment, and crime data, property crimes showed a link to employment, while murder and rape had little connection if any. Its not just in the US. A study a decade ago in New Zealand found a significant link between “dishonesty” offences – a category including theft, burglary and fraud – and unemployment but no parallel link with violent crimes like murder, though rape did show some association”.
People do not live in a vacuum they interact with the world around them. The nature of that interaction is often determined by social class, the neighbourhood in which they live and the finance at their disposal.
In a paper on Social Class Youth Crime and Justice, Rob White and Chris Cunneen advanced the view that in a “wage-based economy, subsistence is largely contingent upon securing paid employment. If this is not available, then a number of social problems are are often invoked, including and especially crime.”
If we accept that unemployment is a factor in the committing of crime, what should be society’s response.
It has been said that long custodial sentences are necessary to show the criminal their behaviour cannot be tolerated by society. Others excuse criminal behaviour by saying they – the criminals – are unemployed and it is the Government’s fault for not finding paid suitable employment for the unemployed. Another position is that rehabilitation is needed as sending people to prison – at tax payers expense – will not solve society’s problems.
Can society gain by excusing criminal behaviour, if it is due to unemployment? If that view is taken the criminal can always say, I did it because I was unemployed. Even in cases when he/she made no effort to find paid employment. It also poses the question does “honesty” have any relevance in society, or is it something to be discarded at one’s convenience?
High crime rates also exposes the weak, vulnerable and aged to disproportionate attacks. On meagre resources they are unable to protect themselves. The rich are more able by environment and security arrangements to protect their property, when those situations fail, there is always insurance.
In recent years Barbados has experienced a plethora of house burglaries, gas station robberies and praedial larceny. With many small farmers thinking of giving of their livelihood because of theft. I have not even mentioned the opportunist robbery of gold jewellery.
Unemployment is not a new phenomenon in Barbados. Our great grand fathers went to help build (1880-1914) the Panama Canal. Then there were those who travelled to America to harvest crops, later some went to England to work for The National Health Service and London Transport, and so it has been for many years.
Is it time to see crime in a different light. It is not only the victim’s problem, it is society’s and it cannot be solved by giving ready made excuses to thieves and robbers. We must see crime for what it is. A cancer determinedly eating away at the heart of our society. Unless it is checked our society will not be worthy of the name “society”.
This view does not preclude compassion for those who are genuinely out of work, or excuse Government’s responsibility to the unemployed. Neither does it seek to discard the tools of rehabilitation for those who seek it after custody. However, the Courts, and Police aided by a supportive public can cut out most of the cancer before our small society is overwhelmed. We should see the problem for what it is and not allow it to flourish by default.