CRACKING SRI LANKA’S CRIMESCAPE
Over 50,804 grave crimes committed in 2014 including
3-5 daily child rapes:
A crime is a deviated behaviour, which goes against all the norms,
values and expectations in a society. There are different types of
crimes: personal, property, incomplete and statutory crimes. Grave
crimes are very serious crimes for which a person will normally be
prosecuted in a criminal court for a trial.
In the recent years, rising crimes have drawn much public attention.
According to the police records, there had been 50,804 total true cases
of grave crimes including rape or incest, grave sexual abuse and
homicides of 2008, 560 and 548 cases respectively, in 2014.
When analyzed, it is clear from the police reports that the crimes
related to abductions, rapes, grave sexual abuse and drug trafficking
are on the rise over the last decade. For example, drug trafficking has
sharp increment of about threefold from 2005 to 2013, reaching its peak
above 1600 cases.It is believed that a woman is raped every 90 minutes,
and 3-5 children are raped daily.So, it is crystal clear that the Sri
Lankan society is getting worse and the rulers have consistently failed
to implement sustainable mechanisms to reverse the trends.
However, the situation is not almost identical across the world.
There are many countries in the world with minimal crime rates with
tight security enabling them to stand in the planet as safer places to
live. Out of them, Denmark, Hon Kong, Iceland, Japan and Singapore enjoy
good ranks. According to the Cuban reports, they have the lowest crime
rates in the western hemisphere.
Crimes have enormous impact on smooth functioning of many aspects of
the society, including social, economic, health and others. Firstly, it
has many negative effects on human relationships due to a high degree of
suspicion and anxiety level. Crime is also a public health issue sharing
common causes like poverty. Evidence shows that the anxiety, depression
and mental distress are higher in those who work or live near an area
where crime rates are high. While the victims of crime can suffer from
serious ill effects, many do not suffer from serious long-term harm.
Occasionally, people do develop long term sequelae such as depression
and post-traumatic stress disorder, a long lasting reaction due to
Crime not only lead to primary economic impact which is material and
immaterial cost for those who are victimized, but crime also forces
secondary impacts on domestic and foreign investments leading to poor
economic growth, labour participation and so on. For example, there had
been 107,760 convicted prisoners and out of them, more than 50% had been
due to grave crime offences in 2012 and the cost of recurrent
expenditure for them had been well above Rs. 3.4 billion in that year.
To our surprise, government expenditure on each education support
programs such as school nutrition programs, text books or school
uniforms had been far below Rs. 3 billion in that year.
It is important to increase public awareness about the root causes of
crimes to insist on policy makers and ruling parties to take timely
actions to combat crimes. In contrast to the notion that the lack of
legislation or punishment being the reasons for high prevalence of grave
crimes, there is enough global evidence to reiterate that many more
socio-economic factors are implicated in crimes such as poverty,
inequality, drug abuse, criminal justice and politics.
Aristotle, among the greatest philosophers in ancient Greece had
claimed that ‘poverty was the father of crimes.’ In the last two
decades, extensive literature has developed a theory on the possible
relationship between crime and economic status. These studies have
asserted that intimate relationships between crime and poverty level,
unemployment, childhood economic deprivation and economic crisis of a
country. According to the Department of Census and Statistics, in
2012/2013, some 1.8 million individuals were below the poverty line
which is considered as the real per capita monthly expenditure.
Another important fact related to poverty is the economic inequality
which has a multi-faceted consequences affecting healthcare, education,
unemployment and so on due to social tension and political instability
created by the same.
According to a World Bank report on inequality and violent crimes in
2002, there is a robust correlation between the incidence of crimes and
the extent of income inequality. Economic inequality is illustrated by
using quintile dispersion using 20:20 ratio of income distribution.
In Sri Lanka, the share of income of the richest 20% of the
population was some 53.2% whereas the poorest 20% received only 4.9%,
according to the household and expenditure survey conducted by the
Ministry of Finance and Planning in 2012. Furthermore, when mean per
capita monthly income remained at Rs.11, 932, the poorest 5% people
received less than Rs.2.220 per month.
Criminality and substance abuse have long been linked, though it is
highly debatable whether drug use leads people into criminal activity or
whether those who use drugs are already predisposed to such activity.
It is estimated in a national survey that nearly 25 billion Americans
(9.4%) above the age of 12 are addicted to illicit drugs and marijuana,
with cocaine and heroin being the most commonly abused drugs. Added to
this, slightly more than half of the American population above the age
of 12 years is alcohol-addicted.
In Sri Lanka, current alcohol users and smokers above the age of 15
years are 35.6%and 33.2% respectively. However, total number of arrests
related to drugs was 47,976 in 2012 and the prison admissions due to
various offences related to drug abuse including narcotic, theft and
murder cases were 26,245 in 2011. According to the Research Division of
National Dangerous Drugs Control Board, these figures continued to grow
over the last several years.
Inefficiency of the criminal justice system and rising trend of
protection of and backup for criminals by politicians are other factors
governing the high figures of crimes. Most alarmingly of all, only 3.2%
of those who admitted to rape had been arrested, and only 2.2% had been
jailed – or in other words – in 96.5% of rape cases, the rapist had
experienced no legal consequences, as reported by the UN survey into
violence against women across the Asia and Pacific region.
Then add this fact. Out of 59,075 true cases of crimes in 2005, a
total of 35,709 are pending investigation or pending in the Magistrate’s
Court, High Court or lying at the Attorney General’s Department, while
during the same year, another 1420 cases were pending out of 1531 cases
of rape .This idle system remained similar in 2014.
According to the police, crimes committed by politicians range from
killings to rape, other types of grave crimes and obstructing police
from discharging duties. It also shows that the rising trend of crimes
is evenly matched with the growing number of provincial level
politicians violating the law.
Unemployment and the failure of a system to incorporate school
dropouts effectively into the national labour force as trained personnel
also pose a serious issue. According to 2012 data from the Department of
Census and Statistics, among the people above the age of 25 years, 77.1%
have studied only up to G.C.E. O/L.
Unemployment was another burning issue with an unemployed population
of about 333,000 in that year. There is global evidence to support the
fact that these people are more prone to getting involved in anti-social
activities such as drug trafficking and crimes. When analyzed, out of
3147 cases in 2014, some 2500 persons who committed suicide had reached
only up to G.C.E O/L examination. Similar patterns prevail when
analyzing the nexus between low levels of education and drug addiction.
The added danger is about the individual behavior as well as the
social response to crimes. While the individual response to these
incidents are largely rejected by civilized society, behavioural
patterns of the society itself, lobby groups, mass media and politicians
too cannot be overlooked. Ultimately, it will be preferable to label
such a society as “unhealthy” not merely on medical grounds, but also
due to disrupted socio-economic aspects that compromise the well-being
of an entire nation.
This situation needs to be addressed soon. It is important that the
national leadership at all levels create, implement and monitor a
national plan to combat crime. This should address socio-economic
factors such as poverty, socio-economic inequality, alcohol and other
substance abuse and so on. Situational crime prevention measures should
be applied to reduce the opportunities for crimes and legal processes
strengthened to accelerate criminal justice.
Finally, it would worth be emphasizing that many socio-economic
factors need to be addressed, to achieve a noteworthy reduction in the
crime rate. It is that discussion that should take precedence over a
desire to introduce the death penalty as the sole solution.