the intense contest for the 2022 FIFA World Cup begins today, there is an expectation that serious crimes will decrease across the island for a change.
There is the anticipation of calmer households and communities, with fewer domestic disputes as people will be distracted by football matches with little time to “kick off”.
The previous 2018 FIFA World Cup took place between June 14 and July 15, 2018. Statistics obtained by the Jamaica Observer from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) show that, between June 10 and July 15 that year, there were 105 murders and 90 shootings across the country.
For the same period in 2017, the numbers were higher — 157 and 156 respectively. In 2016, 130 and 105.
The 2014 FIFA World Cup took place between June 12 and July 13, 2014. That year, there were 87 murders and 124 shootings between June 10 and July 15 – relatively lower when compared to the same periods in 2013 and 2015.
In 2013 there were 29 more murders and 10 more shootings. In 2015, 132 and 141 respectively.
This comes as no surprise to attorney-at-law Alexander Shaw, who told the Sunday Observer that there are usually fewer crime cases during major sporting events.
“People are usually glued to their televisions and, given that their minds are actively engaged, you find that they don’t have time to focus so much on criminality. Even those persons who are considered violent and are always committing gruesome acts, they too are fans of sports. So, usually, when you have major sporting events you really find that they are well engaged,” he said last Friday.
“You will have one and two incidents, but it is not as significant, in my estimation, as when you don’t have any sporting activities, or major sporting activities. And soon after the sporting season or the event concludes you find that you start seeing an increase.
“Jamaica is a high crime country, or one that has a high crime rate, but it significantly lower, for example, in the Olympics season,” Shaw continued.
The 22nd World Cup will take place in Qatar from November 20 to December 18, 2022.
Shaw also pointed to the fact that there are usually fewer domestic cases during periods of grand sporting events.
“Even though I am not speaking from an empirical standpoint, to be honest, for sporting events, you find that the bond is usually much stronger and people are much closer, because everybody is engaged. I am speaking more so about athletics,” he told the Sunday Observer.
“Everybody is engaged, and whether or not they love each other or have a strong bond, they are engaged and they really don’t have time to be fighting. Yes, maybe you have some persons who are so disgusting that they are going to fight but, generally speaking, I don’t find that domestic cases are any much higher during that time.”
Back in January, veteran journalist and Jamaica Observer columnist Lloyd B Smith said he is “convinced that sports and the performing arts can play a pivotal and sustainable role in helping to change the socio-economic landscape of our oftentimes disadvantaged and marginalised youth”.
Smith, a former Member of Parliament for St James Central and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, noted that there is sufficient empirical evidence to suggest that when St James is doing “very well” in football, there has been a reasonable reduction in violent crimes.
“Despite the constant changing of the guard at the helm of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and an agonising series of national security ministers, not to mention states of public emergency (SOEs), zones of special operation (ZOSOs), marches, prayer vigils, and the naming of special squads, the heinous killings and other acts of deviant behaviour continue unabated with no seeming end in sight,” he said.
Retired Superintendent of Police Ionie Ramsay Nelson told the Sunday Observer that sporting events have been kind to Jamaica.
“Sports does something to our psyche. Sports is a winner for Jamaica and, in my opinion, it does something for crime too. Based on my experience, any time we have any form of sports, whether it is local or overseas, the attention is so focused on who is going to win and who is going to lose that people don’t have any time to do foolishness,” she reasoned.
Ramsay Nelson said a difference in the Jamaican population is already noticeable.
“It [sports] has been a blessing to us, whether it is national or international. It does something for us. If you go on the streets right this minute, you see it. People are selling flags, people have their flags on their vehicle, they have all sorts of emblems that represent the country that they favour,” she said.
Ramsay Nelson argued that even smaller, community-based sporting events have an impact.
“It is one of the motivating factors for people. And although I am out of the system now for a while, if you watch when these communities have their little domino, little football, little this, little that, everybody just come together. And more so, when you can get the young men involved.”
Consultant psychiatrist Dr Aggrey Irons said that sports was designed for that specific reason.
“That’s why, from the Roman time, they gave them the arenas in Rome and Greece so that they can have competitions. It was a way of distracting the population, particularly the male population, from their inherent fighting attitudes, even though those were bloodier. Man, by very nature, is a physical being and you dissipate that energy,” he said.
“Just to organise to watch it and to come together with your friends is something that is going to naturally decrease negative physical activity. The thing now is that we must organise our society around that a little better. That’s why you have the football teams from the various areas.”
Irons told the Sunday Observer that Jamaica, in particular, has a deep connection to the World Cup, which works for the country.
“The reason why the World Cup is so popular here in Jamaica is because almost every young man or most young men in Jamaica find football to be a romantic sport. Everybody wants to be a ‘baller. And they still have the memory of the Brazilian connection, and the fact that we qualified 25 years ago. So, there is that link,” he said.
In 2018, National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang said a programme exposing at-risk youth in crime-plagued communities to music, sports, and technology was a critical element of Government’s five-point crime plan.
Chang, in his contribution to the sectoral debate in the House of Representatives, said it was part of the social intervention programme of the plan, and that it would begin in the 20 most vulnerable and volatile communities in consultation with the Planning Institute of Jamaica.
Time span Crime
World Cup 2018 June 10 – July 15 105 murders, 90 shootings
2017 June 10 – July 15 157 murders, 156 shootings
2016 June 10 – July 15 130 murders, 105 shootings
World Cup 2014 June 10 – July 15 87 murders, 124 shootings
2013 June 10 – July 15 116 murders, 134 shootings
2015 June 10 – July 15 132 murders, 141 shootings