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Economic stress may trigger high crime rate

2022-08-24  Josef Kefas Sheehama

Economic stress may trigger high crime rate

Windhoek recorded nearly 360 cases of robberies in 49 days between 27 June 2022 and 14 August 2022, according to the City of Windhoek. 

We need to understand that tough economic times drive more people to commit crimes. Namibia is seriously facing high crime due to a bad economy, which leads to more property crimes and robberies, as criminals steal popular items that they cannot afford. 

It is important to note that bad economic times result in more domestic violence and greater consumption of mind-altering substances, such as drugs and alcohol, leading to more violence in general and, in return, more crime. 

All these crimes are characterised by common triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality. It is the young people who are presently disadvantaged; it is the young people who commit these crimes, and who are not in education, employment or training. 

These youth all live in poverty-stricken neighbourhoods. Because of this structural displacement, desperation, dehumanisation and hopelessness, the last options are to disengage and employ survival strategies of crime to keep up and provide for themselves and their families. 

This situation needs to be addressed through public policy to revisit the distortions that emerged during the apartheid era, which are contributing to the high unemployment rate in the modern Namibian labour market.

Unemployment and crime are always thought to work hand-in-hand, with an increase in one leading to a rise in the other, and vice versa. There will always be a crime – that much is clear. What our goal must be as a society is to eliminate crime that is due to the stresses of poverty. 

 Through reforms, treatment and the removal of the stress that comes with living in poverty, it is clear that a lower crime rate will be the result. 

When there are zero opportunities, an individual will create their opportunities – usually through crime. It will be through violent crime if necessary. We may never eliminate poverty within our lifetime, but we can set the stage for people to find a different way than in previous generations. 

Through education, treatment and consistency, people will be given more opportunities. That will help them be able to get that job they need to provide themselves with legitimate resources. If not, our future might just be a world where people feel like they need to steal to survive.

It is important to understand that when citizens are freed from the worries of earning a livelihood to sustain their lives, they divert their attention to more useful things. They focus on education, improvise healthcare, developing technologies that make life easy and much more. Poor economic condition is the root cause of so many problems that exist in a society. Therefore, an increased crime rate has adverse effects on the sustainable economic growth in Namibia by driving away foreign and domestic investors; low investment eventually increases unemployment and poverty. 

Poverty causes hunger; when the impoverished are hungry, they engage in acts of stealing or robbery to acquire what they need, as they lack legitimate means to attain them. Young people, especially in the inner city, are more likely to get involved in drug dealing and gangs, as they feel there is no other way out of their impoverished state. 

 Income inequality makes it difficult for the poor to survive – and on a wider scale, it lowers the economic growth of Namibia. When income inequalities are high, crime is equally high, as it is a major determinant of crime. 

When the poor feel inferior to the rich, it causes serious social tensions to increase, hence decreasing the opportunity cost of crime. Consequently, as the income distribution gets more unequal, the gap between the benefits and costs of crime widens; thus, the incentive for crime becomes higher. The greater the inequality, the greater the inducement for low-status individuals to commit crimes. The motivation to commit crime is not solely drawn from the expected economic benefits but social disgruntlement and dissatisfaction.

Moreover, Namibia faces great challenges with the high rate of unemployment and underemployment. Unemployment creates an environment where parents cannot send their children to go school. Uneducated children are illiterate, and when people are unemployed, they tend to be more hostile, angry and jealous; this creates social dismantling and crime. 

Namibia can reduce crime if the leaders are relevant to the people. Leaders cannot attract masses of voters but nothing improves after voting. There are reasons why people voted you – to help them with bread and butter. A large chunk of the population lives below the poverty line. They live in miserable conditions. Lack of proper food, clothing and shelter, poor sanitation, and unsafe and sometimes dirty drinking water are just some of their many problems. Poverty itself gives rise to various other social problems. It deprives children of poor people of to access education and healthcare. 

To that end, there is a positive association between depriving economic conditions with crimes in Namibia. The bad economy is a very important determinant of crimes. The increase in inflation, interest rate, unemployment and income inequality are also the main determinants of crimes. 

 Therefore, to reduce the crime rate, economic growth must be favourable for the poor class of society. It should follow a path that directs resources to those sectors where a majority of the poor exist – like the agriculture sector and the areas they live. 

Policymakers should improve the economy and provide more chances for employment as well as the capacity to absorb the rapid urbanisation. After getting a good education, people do not have suitable jobs. The other important point is that government should create job opportunities in rural areas as well. Moreover, policymakers should try to keep inflation within acceptable limits so that the real income of consumers does not lose its purchasing power.

2022-08-24  Josef Kefas Sheehama

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