Thursday, August 15, 2013

Zero Tolerance or Infinite Tolerance?

“A zero tolerance policy imposes automatic punishment for infractions of a stated rule, with the intention of eliminating undesirable conduct.” (Wikipedia). The “broken window theory” claims that if a window is broken and not repaired, more windows will be broken and eventually the building will be broken into. Extrapolating that argument, if minor infractions of rules go unpunished, the perpetrators or people in general will continue to expect to be able to  break other laws and not be punished. Arguments and examples can be put forward supporting and  opposing this theory.
Garbage on Sewell Avenue, Montego Bay

However, in Jamaica, the attitude of infinite tolerance seems to prevail. No action is taken against those who break so many of our laws. Take for example the Anti-Litter Act, passed with much fanfare and education programmes in the 1980’s. There are occasional crackdowns, in relation to posters advertising events, but in general there is total disregard for this law. Our drains and gullies are filled with plastic bottles, Styrofoam boxes and other trash to such an extent that they are blocked when heavy rains come and flooding results. Parish Councils are called on to keep these waterways clean, but you never hear of anyone being penalized for dropping the garbage there in the first place. On Sewell Avenue, in Montego Bay, there are two spots where people dump their garbage in an unsightly pile. Garbage trucks pass by regularly and sanitation workers take it up, but minutes later more is deposited. People, where is your civic pride? Couldn’t somebody at least provide a garbage drum at this location?
Open burning

Very few people seem to be aware that there is a law against open burning – a common practice. It’s hard to detect somebody littering - they drop their garbage and disappear, but it’s easy to see smoke and the evidence of a fire in an urban area. If Parish Councils collected fifty-thousand dollars for every instance of open burning, they would need no other source of income.
Slash and burn farming, Caledonia, Westmoreland

Harder to catch are slash and burn farmers in deep rural areas, and those who cut down trees with the intention of selling them. Police in Westmoreland have expressed their frustration at not being able to catch these thieves.
  Another law which is flouted with impunity is the night noises law. Operators of sound systems are supposed to get police permission before holding a session, but many fail to do so. Their noise continues well beyond the stipulated cut-off time and is replete with ‘forty-shilling-words’ which in a different setting would be grounds for an arrest.
  At one time, it was forbidden to import Pit Bull Terriers, and all imported dogs had to be quarantined for six months, to guard against rabies. Pit Bulls and other dogs were sneaked in, by-passing the quarantine. As far as I know, the law forbidding their importation is still on the books, but now Pit Bulls are one of the commonest breed of dog to be found in Jamaica.     
Even the government breaks its own laws by locking up children in adult prisons, and keeping adult prisoners incarcerated for many months without charging them.
  I hadn’t intended for my blog to be a platform from which to rant, as I prefer to be positive and look for solutions. I asked myself whether I would reproach anybody I saw dropping or burning garbage, and the answer was “No”, (except in the case of our neighbour’s gardener to whom we’ve spoken numerous times). However, I know there are many people who think as I do. I’ve heard them on talk-shows and seen their letters in newspapers. By continuing to talk and write, we must make it known that we are the majority, we disapprove of indiscipline and we shouldn’t let ourselves be bullied. We can also lend our support to organizations such as Jamaicans for Justice, and Jamaica Environment Trust, by thanking them and encouraging them to continue to speak out on our behalf.


John Wyatt said...

Oh dear, would that some things could and would change. Burning trash in gutters and gullies, and in awl unnu yaad; sound systems blaring long past midnight in residential areas; now mi read bout Pit Bull Dawg an how dem come to be so common. Isn't it about time our laws mean something? A quarter of a century ago I left Ja and disturbed nights and burning trash was common. Sad to read it is still so.

Helen said...

Sad indeed. Thanks for your comment.