Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 13 December 2015





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette


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.

Negative impact

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 psychological trauma.

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.

Root causes

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.

Systemic failure

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.



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