Solving crime: the need for bright ideas–Damion Crawford may be on to something

Solving problems, effectively, takes the application of both minds and bodies. Yesterday, a young mathematician suggested something that shows how this may work.

Now, the idea is not fully operational and has flaws. But, it contains the grains of a very good way to thwart a certain activity, or make it more difficult to commit without trace.

The details of the idea are not as important as the essence: many people carry around daily a device that allows you to know where they are at any particular time.

Several years ago, The Guardian reported on privacy concerns that iPhones tracked the movement of their owners.

Mobile networks record phones’ locations, though the data may only be available to the police and other recognised organisations following a court order, as in the UK under the Regulation of Investigatory Power Act.

So, the idea of trying to use details of phone locations to narrow down searches for criminals is an interesting one.

Many applications, especially those that use media, have forms of ‘geotagging’, i.e. adding location information, that may or may not be done automatically or overridden. An app called Find Friends comes installed on iPhones by default, and allows you to share your location with approved contacts; it has its good (know where friends and family are) and evil uses (snoop or your acquaintances’ movements).

Just today, another piece in The Guardian, entitled ‘Apparently my smartphone is telling everyone exactly where I am right now. Should I care?‘, prompted by the image-sharing app Snapchat and its controversial new “Snap Map”, which shows users their friends’ locations in near-real time, and disconcerting detail.Screen Shot 2017-07-08 at 5.20.06 AM

Concerns over such features have mainly been to do with privacy and the possibilities for stalking and bullying. But, as Mr. Crawford points out, the potential is there for such information to be used in other (good) ways.

We’ve moved into an age where mobility is much higher than before, and the relevance of information about people’s supposed domiciles is weak. Admitted, in many places, you need to offer an address or ID to buy a SIM card, this is a near-useless control on the sale of them. Case in point: I changed my postpaid phone contract just after I moved, recently; to effect the change I needed to supply my ‘address’. The only verifiable address was the one I had just left. OK, that’s fine. So, I have a new phone contract tagged to my old address and no record of where I now live! My bills are sent by email, so I could be off the planet, as far as the provider is concerned. Main thing: I pay my bills each month.

In the UK, for instance, it was the case that you could pick up a SIM card for free at the airport, and it had some credit on it. You just had to take it to a store or call a ‘service’ number to get it activated. You don’t have to be a genius to see how such availability and anonymity would attract many whose motives are not pure. The criminal community have been using ‘throw away’ SIMs for ages. So, the SIM is not the way to track many, though it may catch some.

Rather than people like Damion figuring out how to make the idea work, the telecoms company should suggest what could be done to make that happen. That’s real ‘community’ policing.

As in many spheres, when the landscape gets rough, people look for easier terrain. Getting away from use of the mobile phone may be a step too far for many, so the known likelihood of regular tracing of devices may be what tips the balance for a significant number.

While it may not stop crime dead, it may start to make criminals think harder, as the risks start to swing against them. That’s part of the puzzle that’s been missing in Jamaica for a while, and needs to change fast.

Take a walk in my shoes: we are what we tolerate, and we tolerate garbage, in many forms 

It’s no major engineering feat to create safe urban space. However, it takes careful work and attention to needs and details. I wrote, recently, about the torture of walking Jamaican streets, especially in the corporate area. I’m now in the USA, and will soon be in Europe, and know that both areas pay more than measly lip service to things like ease of access, especially for those with disabilities. The simple point is that everywhere I go has smooth walkways and ramps for those who need wheelchairs. Ironically, that makes life harder for me, because years of sport have taken their toll on my ankles, which suffer from often walking at an angle: it’s easier to walk in the street than the sidewalk. 

By chance (or not), I find a touch of ‘home’ in Leesburg. This piece of Jamaica would make any of us proud.

Yesterday, I visited historic Leesburg, Virginia; founded in 1758. Even on its narrow streets, sidewalks were sizable and well surfaced, and generally clutter-free. 

Where my daughter lives, in a newish apartment complex, the paths through the woods are better surfaced that almost any ROAD or SIDEWALK in Jamaica. It’s a matter of workmanship

It’s also about standards and holding people to them.

Individuality isn’t killed by adherence to standards; it’s enhanced by the field being level for all.

It’s about clear visions and seeing those fulfilled. It’s about caring for ALL citizens. The petty partisanship that has been our bread and butter is tiring for how it’s drained most of our lives for the satisfaction of a craven few.

Which community in Jamaica has a paved road or walking area such as this ‘mere’ path through the woods in Virginia?

I’ve called what we put up with in Jamaica a ‘disgrace’: it’s about tolerating woefully low standards. 

Many developed countries are not pristine but give an impression of cleanliness and order because they outweigh filth and chaos. Go to a concert or football match in England and people’s behaviour and treatment of their surroundings can be truly disgusting. But, afterwards, services come to bear soon afterward to restore order and cleanliness. 

We went to watch baseball on Monday evening and peanut trash and food containers littered the seating areas. But, all through the game, garbage bins were being cleared; toilets were being cleaned; surfaces were being wiped. As soon as the game ended, in case the cleaning crew to deal with the seated areas. Sure, baseball may see series of daily games in a stadium, so time is critical in getting things back in shape, but that’s not the driving reason. Garbage, like a sour taste, spoils many nice things. 

At some stage in our development, we have to collectively accept that each of us acting well is what makes our living areas stop being overtaken by neglect. 

We also must begin to stop accepting servings of crap (from political people) and thinking they’re giving us caviar. Excuse my French! 😩

Jamaica and its universal constants: measuring the pain of national survival

Jamaica is a country of many constants, from the average temperatures each day, to a stunning inability to anticipate trouble. We cannot change the weather much each day, but we can anticipate better. I wont be long here.

Think of any problem in Jamaica, and ask yourself, ‘About when did this problem first emerge as a serious issue?’. Then, step back in time and ask yourself, ‘When did decision makers first indicate they would address the problem?’. Note the time difference between these two questions. 

Now, note when the first action was taken (if any) to address the issue. Note the difference in time between this third point and the first two. 

Now note your age. 

Divide the numbers you have so far each by your actual age: that will tell you what proportion of your life you have spent waiting for something to get done. Its best value will be close to 0; its worst value will be 1.

Now, do another exercise.

It’s unlikely that your first memory will be much before when you were two years old, but whatever that age, make that your start point, or 0.

Get some lined graph paper. Along the bottom you will have 0 in the bottom left corner (standard), and as the line moves to the right you can section it off in single years or blocks of 5 (just for convenience).

Now, on the left axis, make some marks to show ‘issue identified’, ‘stated decision to address issue’, ‘first action taken to address issue’, and finally ‘address issued. Plot the marks for each of these four things along the line of your ‘age’, from 0 to now. How does it look?

If you are aware of many issues, then colour each series of ‘actions’ in a different colour. 

Look at the graph. 

If your graph has very few complete lines for each issue, I will put it to you that you know what is the problem. If you have complete lines, please inform me of the issue, and how many years it took to get from ‘start’ to ‘finish’.

I would wager that many things have not been fully addressed in your ‘lifetime’. 

That is one of the constants of life in Jamaica, and it’s awfully sad.

When Yardies buck up a farrin: I went to watch golf and a meet-up broke out

Many people who like to put golf into a box think of it as one of the prime activities for networking. So, when I went to Maryland to volunteer at the PGA Quicken Loans National tournament, I naturally expected that I would meet a few people of interest. I did! Golf friends from Jamaica. One, I knew, was due to be in the area–my sometime-golf partner, Hubie Chin; some others, caddies from Cinnamon Hill, who were working the summer in the area; others still, a couple who were living in the area and who had mutual golf friends in Jamaica. When I got into conversation with the couple, a main interest was about crime in Jamaica, but after I gave my take on things, talk was positive enough to mention the prospect of coming back to Jamaica. We agreed that there are few better places to live, whatever the realities of crime. 

Bottom line: they were chasing dreams…of being with family and friends…of earning a bigger piece of the cake…or just hanging out for the day, thanks to one of the event sponsors…of maybe going back home. 

When we met up we had more than a little embrace and a laugh. Those who were around saw what they associate with Jamaicans–a lot of fun and friendliness. 

One of the funny things was that Jamaica had a place in the event. 

July 1 was International Reggae Day. On Sunday, July 2, my hosts asked me what music I would like as I sat in their air-conditioned box–anything reggae, I suggested. Strains of Bob Marley and ‘one love’ filled the Sunday morning. 🙂 

One of the vendors, Lipton, was promoting a mango iced tea, offering anyone a chance to win a huge cooler coloured black, gold, and green: I tried to win, and came away with a cooler in the waning hours of the event. 😊👍🏾 It’s huge! I offered it to my daughter, for hosting me this week.

The team for Lipton had some Caribbean connections and we’d discussed where in the D.C. area one could get good Jamaican food. “Cook us some escoveitch snapper!” one begged. I mentioned curried lobster…mouths drooled. 

I wasn’t being paid to be a brand ambassador, but maybe when I travel next I should speak to our politicians who try to attract foreign interests to Jamaica to see whether they want to give me a formal remit. Then again, I prefer to just let the vibes flow, and give the best impression I can of the land that I love.