Commentary: 14-year-old raped, killed and burnt – a troubling new normal in Jamaica

By R.D. Miller

Her Story

Photo Credit: Latoya Riley, the mother of 14 year-old Yetanya Francis

How do you comfort the mother of young Yetanya Francis, who was raped, murdered, and her lifeless body found on August 24, 2018, after simply being out on an errand for her mother?

Who will be next on the list of sexual predators and those suffering from mental illness?

Students now struggle with the psychological trauma of losing their classmates, while parents are afraid to send their daughters to school or a local store.

This macabre history is not unique to Jamaica, in particular the premature death of young girls where other parents are still seeking answers. The difference now is that social media has taken the stories of these victims globally.

Sure, some will disagree from crime fighting strategy top what failed operations policy, and the pointing to places globally, which is minimization and often hopelessness in disguise, but but 13-year-old Aliesha Brown, who went missing and was later found dead on October 2, 2014, is another reminder, along with several heinous crimes since her death.

I’m not suggesting that the whole country is isolated and there’s violence everywhere. I have no problem jumping on a flight, and after landing at any time, jump on a local cab and head up the hill at any time to see a grand- uncle, but how long will this happen if these headlines keep on being an open question.

The delicate empathy

Equally important, the elected leaders who are in denial are only positioning themselves for the revolving door of elections in which they failed while in power, which has only contributed to that normality. how does the community expect people to come forward and work with the authorities to resolve those criminal elements or provide resources to minimize those acts?

In response to these barbaric atrocities, the justice of the vigilantes, which often kills innocent people, does not help, nor does the embrace of the Prime Minister, in spite of good intentions of comfort, or the heartfelt speeches of other leaders, which cannot reverse this pattern of criminality.

While violence is rampant across many regions, these criminals (thugs) abduct students, leaving families counting on a child’s return for days. They murder intellectuals, sports icons, youth, seniors, entrepreneurs; business owners and women in a large number of domestic violence incidents, in terms of local reports.

Soon there will be a vigilant portion of the package on tourist guides as the atrocities seems to have become become too normal.

Several experts noted that combating crime requires a wide range of technology, leadership, community and management skills with resources.

Jamaica’s ‘cool runnings vibes and local smiles have not washed out to the ocean despite the negative headlines. The shops in the local area where you can repair a flat tire, at a restaurant stuck against the mountain selling authentic local dishes from Jamaica still welcome everyone..

Jamaica’s ‘cool runnings vibes and local smiles have not washed out to the ocean despite the negative headlines. The shops in the local area where you can repair a flat tire, at a restaurant stuck against the mountain selling authentic local dishes from Jamaica still welcome everyone..

Even the white sand and turquoise water, as the sun beams through trees, with a cool breeze hitting your face that can make you feel as if you are shedding your skin like a snake to take on a new identity and temporarily forgetting your troubles as if you were at a spa remain intact.

But, these natural events and postcard times can create mistakes because there are pockets of danger I believe in far too many areas that remain like a snake venom despite its new beautiful skin can strike anytime. And psychologists have remarked that what appears normal is not always healthy..

The complexity

How did Jamaica get to this point?

This is a fight to separate the perception of reality and who is responsible. Unfortunately, these concerns and outrages often seem short-lived in a couple of new cycles.

Of course, crime control models have been implemented to eradicate this criminal cancer, but with these criminal trends, some believe they have done little to discourage easy access to high-potency weapons, gangs, as well as other criminal activities.

Many cases of murder are still unresolved, I believe, because of a lack of technical skills and resources or a police force that is too limited to cover these dense areas.

Headlines of murders, rapes, assaults, robberies cannot be resolved if targeted operations as reported, criminals are alerted due to their Robin Hood status leave the area and return to counteract the chaos and mayhem, this doesn’t make the community more secure.

A system of education, essential to preparing the next generation of leaders and rebuilding the middle class, appears to have declined. Today, many youth have dropped out of school, suffer from addiction and mental health problems, and those with higher education have little chance of advancement.

Few people would argue that poverty, corruption, the growing gap between the rich and the poor, the high unemployment rate and crime rates have led to emotional desensitization and lack of responsiveness following repeated exposure to constant news violence.

Furthermore, if, as reported, some who are sworn to serve and protect now wind up with case numbers of their criminal activities erode trust. And in a system where police mistrust goes back to colonial times, which makes it very difficult for some to follow the rule of law.

Even those who are empathic and who would like a lot of change are now convinced that these symptoms of criminality do not need a doctor because, emotionally, they have detached themselves.

Another wave that is rarely told.

This is far from the relaxed and trouble-free ambiance of Jamaica which often welcomed visitors and returning residents. The Jamaica Observer reported that in 2017 alone, more than 1,600 lives were lost.

Other reports noted that since the beginning of 2000, more than 200 British, American and Canadian ex-pats have been murdered and, since the beginning of 2018, more than 500 have been killed. Many believe that violent gangs and the ongoing lottery scam in big cities as reported is always a problem, where expatriates are considered by criminals as soft targets.

The death of Delroy Walker in May 2018 is another reminder of the danger that not many people recognize and or others locally will admit. He was stabbed and murdered on his return to Jamaica to enjoy his retreat to Britain while giving back to the youths

Photo credit: Steve Walker, whose brother Delroy Walker was murdered in Jamaica

He has championed youth by giving back and using his skills and resources through his charitable organization. This untimely death robbed the youth of a shot of success, those who yearn for a sunbeam that is getting cloudier on these shores.

Delroy’s death further stymies many charitable barrels of goods slated for the island to help others now under reconsideration or listed on eBay and Amazon, held in a basement or storage center because of safety concerns.

Although his killers may have been caught, the criminal enterprises silently devastating these once-safe communities are a major threat to a normal life. When youth have no hope or even lack the resources to chart a vision, crime becomes more attractive..

Karen Cleary, 44, had been building her dream home in the country of her birth when she went missing on Sunday, November 25. Her body was found buried in a shallow grave on her property in Boscobel, St Mary.

The Bahamas, Carlis Blatch, assistant to the governor general, was gunned down while waiting for his son from school, according to the Nassau Guardian.

When honest, hard-working and successful individuals who want to help are now considered a threat, the region loses and remittances alone cannot solve these systemic problems.

Much needed mental shift.

A close friend mentioned her container of goods returned home after years of hard work abroad and upon arrival, half of its contents disappeared, with no accountability.

The public service is a noble office and honesty is essential.One wonders who hires those people, but this too has become normal. Oftentimes it’s fear and connection to the people involved, so the communities refuse to come forward.

While many appeal for change, what is troubling is what appears to be a troubling pattern of acceptance of criminality, dishonesty and the absence of a moral compass, while several leaders remain silent.

Disputes are now resolved by the person who has the best weapon, and the normality of fear puts good police officers at a disadvantage.

I began to wonder whether religious institutions, often the lighthouse to inspire and calm residents in these troubled times, are now aligned with politicians and criminals, and the camps chosen for their survival.

Jamaica has never lost its tumultuous attitude, values, pride, vigor and tenacity, while communities look forward to the weekend just to enjoy themselves.

Unfortunately, many meeting places have become more isolated and indoors because of security concerns, like the threat of a hurricane.

Yes! I understand; criminality, poverty, inequality, and socio-economic problems are omnipresent.Desensitization around these crimes may be a means to mask the pain.

Perhaps the pride that Jamaica has developed from the ancient colonial rule continues to use minimization, and deviation to balance lack of responsibility and even survival; therefore, this behavior has contributed to its normality for some.

Today, Jamaica’s main economic engine is tourism, but the young people I met they are not betting their future on visitors alone. They are tired of photo ops and want tangible options and educated leadership with a vested interest in their future and knowledge of an evolving world to lead.

They still hope that the sun will rise again, but these communities must unleash its tenacity, regain their economic, security confidence and security. Because only an individual can decide what is natural, or change and correct what is not.

Writing this piece, it seems like therapy, because I wonder what Yetanya Francis, 3-year-old Aliesha Brown, and countless other missing futures would be. There are many stories I am aware of, but this one, and though I never met her, this one will stay with me.

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