Crime: hit the source not the sink

Regardless of published statistics (which don’t adjust for unreported crimes) that reportedly show that it is getting safer in the streets, events at the ground show otherwise. Neighbourhoods rush to put up their own community barricades, a fresh undergrad is killed by snatch thefts while going to work, a jogger is murdered in broad daylight, a high-ranking government official is shot and killed while on the way to his office – these things are rarely unheard of when I was growing up, but now pepper the front page of newspapers almost on a daily basis.

Contrary to common belief, putting more men-in-blue on the streets will not solve the problem. We can imagine the problem of crime as a pool of water accumulating in a basin. At any time, the amount of water (criminals) in the basin is determined by the rate of water flowing in from the tap (source) and how much get removed via the drain hole (sink). You will agree, that enlarging the drain hole without a concomitant reduction in the rate of flow-in cannot reduce the water level in the basin. The trick is to prevent people from entering into a life of crime at the first place since the odds of reforming a criminal is poor.

The metaphorical tap can be fixed if there are policies of wealth creation that are more equitable, rather than concentrated in the hands of old elites, as it frequently happens in this part of the world. More importantly, don’t forget the teachers, who play crucial roles in preventing a student from entering a life of delinquency. They are actually the front-line fighters against crime, not the men-in-blue, a fact that is sadly overlooked by the policy makers. What goes on today in classrooms can hardly be said to be inspiring. Studying for the sake of examinations has become the norm, and some classrooms are completely devoid of quality instructions. When young minds are left idle for long periods of time, they become breeding ground for all kinds of nasty social experiments, hurtful to themselves and people around them.

The teaching profession no longer receives the cream of society as its apprentices, as it used to be. This is a consequence of the capitalistic economy that rules the world today. As a nation develops, the expanding financial sector (which is very lucrative) sucks up the bright young people, and impoverishes the talent pool in the sphere of public services. This is also true of the quality of research scientists in universities. Of course, there will always be a small group of enthusiastic people who dedicate themselves to the latter, but their numbers cannot hold the ground, and wholesale degeneration of the average quality of these sectors is inevitable. Ironically, it may be in countries that are just about to develop that one may find the best teachers.

About Tsung Fei

A teacher, researcher in the bioinformatics division at the University of Malaya
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