Mr. Basil Harriott | Contributor, Phase 2
In an article published in the Jamaica Gleaner on January 5, 2015 titled “How to ghettoize a community” Garth Rattray highlighted factors that contribute to community decay, which eventually leads to a community being ghettoized. The term ghetto was once used to describe European towns occupied by Jews which has since evolved as a global term to “identify badly run-down, densely populated and usually crime-infested communities/areas”.
Rattray posits “Ghettos dont just spring up overnight or magically appear. Entire communities do not just suddenly and mysteriously morph into run-down, depressed, lawless, crime-infested places. It is a slow process that always takes place in full view of the entire country and with the full knowledge of the powers that be that are supposed to prevent such degradation.”
The question to be asked is at what point does a community becomes ghettoize?
Rattray rightly states that ghettos do not just spring up overnight. It is a process that is fueled by uncaring and inactive community members. Crimes breeds in areas with dilapidated and rundown infrastructures, and neglect of community members who fail to address telling signs. The telling signs usually begin with minor infringements as Rattray pointed out to include setting up of illegal selling stalls on the sidewalks, leaving of junk or disabled motor vehicles on the roadway or on the sidewalk and illegal commercialization.
These infringements will propagate and evolve into a colossal problem if it remains ignored and unattended. They are welcoming signs to gross public disorders which culminates into criminal activities, to assume the moniker of a ghettoize community.
The powers that be Rattray believes are the government and authorities. I must disagree with this point as I believe community residents are capable of preventing or strengthen the degradation, which is determined by if they are being vigilant and inquisitive or somnolent and uninterested. It is their action or inaction that determines the outcome of their neighbourhood.
Government and political representatives are not residents of these communities and are unconcerned doctors if the patient is negligent to its aliments. It is the uncaring attitude of residents that results in ghettoized communities and not the neglect of government.
We have heard of the Broken Windows Theory. This theory was introduced in 1982 by social scientists James Wilson and George Kelling. The broken window is used as a metaphor for disorder and the theory links this disorder to the subsequent occurrence of crime and violence. The essence of the theory is that one broken window not addressed will eventually lead to others being broken after which vandalism occurs, leading to the commission of violent crimes.
One broken window becomes many; indeed, serious street crimes flourish in areas in which disorderly behavior goes unchecked. The resident causing mortar to be mixed on the road can be the first window, or storing debris and constructions material on the roadway or sidewalk. These practices are disorderly conduct, actions contrary to what is required for the upkeep and proper maintenance of the community. This first sign of community decay if not nipped in the bud will encourage other abnormal behavior which may eventually lead to the decay of the community.
Residents have an obligation to protect their investments and enable it to grown in value. One broken window will lead to others being broken; it signifies a community of uncaring residents and encourages vandalism, loitering and practices that lead to street decay and eventually community degradation and crime. Like Illegal Street vending and urinating in public and other acts of vagrancy which eventually lead to pick pocketing, street fights and armed robbery if not addressed; so too will the community be exposed to break-ins and robbery if residents turn a blind eye to the minor infringements thinking it is not their concern.
As the community decay and incidents of violence increases the fear of residents will also increase. With the presence of fear residents will be confronted with the option to fight or take a flight. Fighting in this instance is it to actively confront the situation that exists. Taking a flight will see residents selling their properties for whatever they can get or renting out their properties to tenants. The implications of these will be the erosion of investments and properties being undervalued, unwanted neighbours, unwelcomed guests and further deterioration of the community
Not many will be able to take a flight; therefore the only option would be to fight. Let us be proactive and preventative instead of being reactive. We should take interest in how not to become a ghettoize community. This requires active participation of residents in community activities, maintaining an active and vibrant community association. Youth involvement is also integral and program targeting youth participation in community involvement should be a priority. Implore residents to be vigilant and establish a confidential medium for community residents to report negative practices by their neighbours. Develop a strong relationship with the police, political representatives and social groups, ensure a sustainable neighbourhood watch program, continuously engage residents and encourage their participation in community affairs.
These activities will be sure to keep all windows in intact and steer us clear of the path that leads to a ghettoize community.
Mr. Harriott is resident from phase 2, NHV2