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When I wrote a few hours ago about crime in Jamaica, my mind focused on violent crime. But, the economist in me was also thinking about all crime. While research does not show a clear link between economic conditions and crime, a link exists between them. Several social problems have had a clear negative effect on Jamaica’s economic misfortunes. Crime, its direct effect, has deterred companies from investing in Jamaica or curbed their activity.

We read last week of a shrimp production company, which alleged that it was quitting our shores because of praedial larceny and theft of equipment.

We read often about small farmers who just give up because they cannot deal with or survive the continual stealing of their crops or livestock.

We have a tourism industry that has tried to make much of itself ‘crime proof’ by creating enclaves for visitors, so that they need not interact with possibly thieving or murdering locals.

I heard at a conference on cybercrime how an operator had employees’ trouser pockets stapled so that they could not leave the premises with information.

If Jamaicans are smart, they have been working out the risks and rewards of what they do. Theft and violence are keeping away what Jamaicans say they want: jobs and pay. Maybe, the government ought to talk about that linkage as much as it talks about introducing tax incentives.

Jamaicans seem to be all too willing to bite the hands that feed them. Are we, collectively, that brainless?

So, the farmers and manufacturers and service providers and tourists are all suffering from crime. But, we all suffer, too.

Stealing electricity from JPS. Hooking up illegal cable services. Stealing water from the Water Commission. Stealing yam from my friend’s yard. Buying a driver’s licence. They’re all crimes.

Dog is eating dog and wondering why he’s still hungry. When Bob Marley wrote about ‘mental slavery’, he should have made it clear that we are oppressing ourselves by ‘beggar my neighbour’ attitudes. We are all being made poorer, theft by theft. We are being impoverished because some people think that by taking things from others that do not belong to them they are getting richer. Every association with a crime is a notch in the ratchet that tightens the belt around all of us. Can you feel the pinch, yet?

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